Saturday, May 30, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Here's Joe Conason in today's Salon.com on the subject:
We tortured to justify war
Dick Cheney keeps saying "enhanced interrogation" was used to stop imminent attacks, but evidence is mounting that the real reason was to invent evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaida.
By Joe Conason
May. 14, 2009 |
The single most pertinent question that Dick Cheney is never asked -- at least not by the admiring interviewers he has encountered so far -- is whether he, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush used torture to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq. As he tours television studios, radio stations and conservative think tanks, the former vice-president hopes to persuade America that only waterboarding kept us safe for seven years.
Yet evidence is mounting that under Cheney’s direction, "enhanced interrogation" was not used exclusively to prevent imminent acts of terror or collect actionable intelligence -- the aims that he constantly emphasizes -- but to invent evidence that would link al-Qaida with Saddam Hussein and connect the late Iraqi dictator to the 9/11 attacks.
In one report after another, from journalists, former administration officials and Senate investigators, the same theme continues to emerge: Whenever a prisoner believed to possess any knowledge of al-Qaida’s operations or Iraqi intelligence came into American custody, CIA interrogators felt intense pressure from the Bush White House to produce evidence of an Iraq-Qaida relationship (which contradicted everything that U.S. intelligence and other experts knew about the enmity between Saddam’s Baath Party and Osama bin Laden’s jihadists). Indeed, the futile quest for proof of that connection is the common thread running through the gruesome stories of torture from the Guantánamo detainee camp to Egyptian prisons to the CIA's black sites in Thailand and elsewhere.
Perhaps the sharpest rebuke to Cheney's assertions has come from Lawrence Wilkerson, the retired Army colonel and former senior State Department aide to Colin Powell, who says bluntly that when the administration first authorized "harsh interrogation" during the spring of 2002, "its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaida."
In an essay that first appeared on the Washington Note blog, Wilkerson says that even when the interrogators of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the Libyan al-Qaida operative, reported that he had become “compliant” -- in other words, cooperative after sufficient abuse -- the vice-president’s office ordered further torture of the Libyan by his hosts at an Egyptian prison because he had not yet implicated Saddam with al-Qaida. So his interrogators put al-Libi into a tiny coffin until he said what Cheney wanted to hear. Nobody in the U.S. intelligence community actually believed this nonsense. But now, al-Libi has reportedly and very conveniently "committed suicide" in a prison cell in Libya, where he was dispatched to the tender mercies of the Bush administration's newfound friends in the Qaddafi regime several years ago. So the deceased man won't be able to discuss what actually happened to him and why.
Wilkerson's essay was followed swiftly by an investigative report in the Daily Beast, authored by former NBC News producer Robert Windrem, who interviewed two former senior intelligence officers who told him much a similar story about a different prisoner. In April 2003, U.S. forces captured an Iraqi official named Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi, who had served in Saddam's secret police, the Mukhabarat. Those unnamed officials said that upon learning of Dulaymi's capture, the vice-president's office proposed that CIA agents in Baghdad commence waterboarding him, in order to elicit information about a link between al-Qaida and Saddam. Evidently that suggestion was not enforced by Charles Duelfer, the head of the Iraq Study Group who controlled Dulaymi's interrogation.
The same kind of demands were directed toward interrogators in Guantánamo, according to the testimony of former Army psychiatrist Charles Burney, who testified that he and his colleagues interrogating prisoners at the detention camp felt "pressure" to produce proof of the mythical link.
"While we were there, a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq," he told the Army inspector general. "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link ... there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results." In other words, they were instructed to use abusive techniques, as recounted in the investigation of torture by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Looking back, we now know that coerced confessions -- and in particular the questionable assertions by al-Libi -- were highlighted by administration officials promoting the case for war with Iraq, in the landmark Cincinnati speech by President Bush in October 2002 and in Colin Powell’s crucial presentation to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003, the eve of the war.
Whether Bush, Cheney and their associates were seeking real or fabricated intelligence, they knowingly employed methods that were certain to produce the latter -- as American officials well knew because those same techniques, especially water torture, had been used to elicit false confessions from captured Americans as long ago as World War II and the Korean conflict.
Cheney now claims that he preserved the country from terrorism and saved thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives. We need a serious investigation, with witnesses including the former vice-president under oath, to determine what he and his associates actually did with the brutal powers they arrogated to themselves -- because instead their actions cost thousands upon thousands of American and Iraqi lives, all in the service of a political lie.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Two Stories From The Progress Report
ECONOMY -- REPORT: WALL STREET FIRMS DROVE SUBPRIME CRISIS: The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) released an extensive report yesterday detailing how Wall Street firms fueled the subprime lending that helped create the current economic crisis. CPI reported that "at least 21 of the top 25 subprime lenders were financed by banks that received bailout money -- through direct ownership, credit agreements, or huge purchases of loans for securitization." More importantly, CPI wrote, "increasingly, lenders were selling their loans to Wall Street, so they wouldn't be left holding the deed in the event of a foreclosure. In a financial version of hot potato, they could make bad loans and just pass them along." The Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo noted that the Wall Street firms would in turn "sell the loans to institutional investors, and use the money raised to buy more subprime loans, in a vicious cycle of buying, selling, and lending." This report paints quite a different picture than the one conservatives were trying to sell last fall, when they repeatedly claimed that the mortgage crisis was the fault of banks lending to minorities. As Fox News's Neil Cavuto said at the time, "loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster."
RADICAL RIGHT -- CHENEY EXPLAINS THAT HE'S SPEAKING OUT AGAINST OBAMA TO PROTECT THE 'LITTLE GUYS': Since leaving office, Vice President Cheney has launched unrelenting and baseless attacks on President Obama while vigorously defending the Bush administration. In an interview with the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes on Monday, Cheney explained why he has emerged as such a vocal Bush defender and Obama critic -- in contrast to President Bush, who says Obama "deserves my silence." Cheney said that when he was a member of Congress during the Iran-Contra investigations (of which he was a prominent critic), he saw firsthand senior administration officials absolving themselves while unfairly pinning blame on the "little guys." Because of this, Cheney said, he "sure as hell will" continue to speak out: "I went through the Iran-contra hearings and watched the way administration officials ran for cover and left the little guys out to dry. And I was bound and determined that wasn't going to happen this time. ... And this time around I'll do my damnedest to defend anybody out there," Cheney said. Cheney's defense of the "little guy," especially with regard to torture, is unusual. First, the Bush officials implicated in approving torture were hardly "little" -- they were the senior-most Bush administration officials, such as David Addington, Jay Bybee, and Alberto Gonzales. Second, after Abu Ghraib broke in 2004, Cheney and other top Bush officials systematically laid the blame for the abuses on low-level interrogators, the real little guys, in an attempt to exonerate senior officials. Yet as a recent Senate Armed Services Committee report observed, "The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own."