Connecting the dots: Torture … Iraq War

It’s now beginning to look like one of the big reasons we began to torture was to find a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq. From McClatchy:

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that intelligence agencies and interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubeida at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

“There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.

“Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies.”

Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information,” he said.

Just let that sink in. Cheney and Rumsfeld knew there had to be a link between 9/11 and Iraq, so they pushed interrogators to use torture techniques historically designed to illicit false confessions.

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As an aside, this video of Shepherd Smith losing it at FOX News is immensely satisfying. At least someone over there thinks torture is unequivocally wrong:

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One more aside. This is the state of affairs you’re endorsing if you don’t want to hold high level officials accountable for torture. From TPM:

ABC News obtained a videotape smuggled out the [the United Arab Emirates] showing the crown prince’s brother torturing a man with whips, electric cattle prods, and wooden planks with protruding nails before pouring salt in the man’s wounds and running over him with a Mercedes. A man in police uniform also appeared on the tape, aiding the sheik.

Confronted with the tape, the UAE had this peculiarly candid yet defiant response:

In a statement to ABC News, the UAE Ministry of the Interior said it had reviewed the tape and acknowledged the involvement of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, brother of the country’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed.”The incidents depicted in the video tapes were not part of a pattern of behavior,” the Interior Ministry’s statement declared.

The Minister of the Interior is also one of Sheikh Issa’s brother.

The government statement said its review found “all rules, policies and procedures were followed correctly by the Police Department.”

This is the sort of response I’d expect if Monty Python were running a country’s internal security force: Yes, the sheik did it, but it was merely a one time thing, so no need to be alarmed — and our policeman followed all the rules, the first of which is do whatever the the sheik says. Carry on, now, carry on.

On the other hand, this is how it’s supposed to work. From the Financial Times:

Alberto Fujimori, the former president of Peru, was sentenced this week to 25 years in jail on charges including involvement in two civilian massacres and two kidnappings. He is the first democratically elected president in Latin America to be found guilty on human rights charges in his home state.

Update

The list of torture supporters.

3 Comments

  1. Ian

    Cheney and Rumsfeld knew Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but they wanted justification for invasion. It wouldn’t matter if the results they received were false. If it gave them the connection they wanted, they could push for war. They didn’t get it, but they pushed anyways.

    “This is the state of affairs you’re endorsing if you don’t want to hold high level officials accountable for torture.”

    Stopped reading at this point. That’s an ignorant statement. “You’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem”.

  2. Chris

    Ian,
    You’d appreciate what IOZ has to say about all of this. Both of you can bask in your own nihilist glory.

  3. Ian

    Yeah that’s basically my thoughts in much more florid language.