Sunday, April 13, 2008

Torture Authorized By Highest White House Officials - and President Bush

According to an ABC News report (video), "the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency." These officials approved "enhanced interrogation techniques" considered to be torture by many - including the U.S. Army Field Manual. According to the report "some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic." The senior officials involved were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee including "Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft." In response to the report President Bush told ABC News he knew and approved of the meetings.

At one point during these meetings Attorney General Ashcroft commented "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

Amnesty International
Human Rights First


Call Me Snake said...

As one of only a few serious conservative people who read your blog, I will make it clear that I don't find torture of unlawful enemy combatants to be anything of a problem. In the current situation with the Al Qaeda terrorist network, one of the impacts that their torture of our soldiers has on us is demoralization. People are afraid of fighting for this country because they might be tortured. I say we should be able to use the same tactic against them. It still to this day fulfills one of its original purposes: coercion. If we can get information from an unlawful enemy combatant that will save American lives, it is well worth it. As a soldier once said, "If hooking this terrorist's balls up to a car battery saves even one American ass, all I got to say is 'red is positive, black is negative'."

Torture, believe it or not, is still a pretty damn good way of making the idea of fighting us appear as crazy and stupid as it really is.

Red said...

Damn, Snake. Took the words right out of my mouth!

Professor Davis said...

How do you know the person you're torturing is really a terrorist? Who gets to decide? The president? Some low level CIA op? What if they're wrong? Time and time again we see our government release innocent civilians who have been tortured in the name of security. Is your life or my life worth more than the innocent who are tortured in our name?

Al Qaeda's war crimes did not demoralize us - they angered us, and strengthened our conviction that Al Qaeda must be defeated. How do you think our war crimes affect them - the same way perhaps?

Call Me Snake said...

Consider what they would do to us given a moment's opportunity. They would wish far worse upon us than even someone as "immoral" as I would wish upon them.

The people who make these kind of decisions - discerning a terrorist from an innocent man - are far more qualified than you or I, and know far much more than any of us will ever know about the situation at hand. They know things that are truly dangerous for us to know, and so for the greater good of this nation, yes, there must be cover-ups, even so convoluted as to present a false story of us torturing innocent people, because perhaps we made a bargain with them to provide us with information in return for granting them a release. This is hypothetical, of course, but no civilian will ever know the truth. It is better to sacrifice public opinion for the good of the nation.

However, I digress a great deal. Our "war crimes" are a necessary evil that the prying modern mass media has unveiled against the best interests of the general public. Without those "war crimes", it is an unofficial fact that the Cold War would have ended with us speaking Russian at this point in time.

Those "innocent people" may not be so innocent, sir, and since you have not met them in person, it's best for you to hold your remarks until you have learned more about the matters to which you preach such accusations.

Professor Davis said...

I have worked with torture survivors from all over the world. The story is always the same. Some government says torture is necessary for "national security." Whether it's Pinochet, Rios Montt, Fujimori, de Klerk, Franco or Bush - the story is the same.

Are you familiar with the Arar case? Arar is a Canadian who was picked up at JFK, detained in Syria, tortured and then finally released. The Canadian government conducted an extensive inquiry and cleared him of any wrongdoing whatsoever. Can we look his kids in the eyes and say what happened to their father was justified? Or El Masri who was picked up, detained in Afghanistan, and tortured. It turned out the CIA mixed up the spelling of his name - they thought they had captured wanted terrorist AL Masri not EL Masri. Whoops.

You place an extraordinary amount of trust in the people conducting these operations. Have they earned it? All I'm asking is that you assess their justifications with the same intensity with which you are challenging my arguments. Base your analysis on empirical evidence not "hypotheticals" and "unofficial facts."

And keep in mind one of the loudest opponents of torture is the military.

Call Me Snake said...

Just to clarify, I place more trust in the words of a federal agent than I do in yours, as unbelievably insulting as that may sound.

Now, I've spoken to a few old students of yours (keeping their names confidential, of course), and it seems that you use hypotheticals to try and make points quite frequently.

Oh, and FTR, I'll believe this nation's intelligence sources over the investigation from a Canadian agency.

As for the Al/El Masri situation, perhaps you should consider, after all the things that the CIA has accomplished over the years, it's more than just questionable as to whether or not they really made a mistake like that. As I said before, there's likely a lot more to the situation, but the facts of it will never see the light of day due to the dangerous consequences of allowing the public to know them. I repeat the rationale from a previous post: the agency is sacrificing public opinion for the greater good of the nation and its people.

Professor Davis said...

Last comment from me on this. I'm not insulted in the least, but I'm not asking you to believe me. I'm asking you to consider the empirical evidence which is easily available in government documents, court records, and testimony by CIA officials. The report of the Canadian government, for example, is based on such evidence. Just do a google search and read the case files and government reports. Then make up your mind.

And yes, of course I use hypos to "make a point." I prefer to think of it as "making you think" but either description works. I regret your implication that I am improperly biased. I am equally critical of shoddy liberal and conservative court opinions (recall our discussion of Katzenbach). I don't penalize students for their opposing views (I wish more would speak up in class) and I strive to treat all students with the utmost respect. You seem to think that torture is a liberal vs conservative idea. It is not. As I mentioned, some of the most active opponents of our current approach are conservative military officials. Take a look at this:

Commandant Editorial

And, finally, it is not "public opinion" that is sacrificed, we sacrifice the fundamental principles upon which this nation is based and the lives of the innocent who are caught up in the morass.

Good to discuss this with you. Thanks, and feel free to have the last word if you like - but I ask that you read the link I posted above before doing so.

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