Thursday, April 23, 2009

People who weren't protected by torture

"We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and gases." - George W. Bush, Oct. 2002

Members of the Bush administration's criminal torture regime and their surrogates in the media - especially Fox News, which other than a few persons like Shep Smith and Andrew Napolitano has turned into the pro-torture network - are now making the rounds attempting to frame the "debate" over torture in terms of whether or not it "worked" as opposed to whether or not it is illegal (it is) or that it occurred (it did.)

So let's consider and remember some of the people who were not made safer by torture. People who were instead made dead or who suffered crippling and debilitating injuries. I'm talking about the tens of thousands of US military casualties in Iraq (almost 4200 dead and over 30,000 wounded) and the likely 100s of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians (a bare minimum estimate of deaths since 2005 by the AP counts 87,215 - the Lancet study published in '06 estimated over 600,000).

The quote at the start of this post was made by President Bush as one of the major justifications for invading Iraq. It was in reference to the captured Al Qaeda operative Ibn Al-Libi.

In statements before the war, and without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then the secretary of state, and other officials repeatedly cited the information provided by Mr. Libi as "credible" evidence that Iraq was training Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons. Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that "we've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.
Al-Libi had originally been in the custody of the FBI where, according to the definitive reporting of Jane Mayer in The Dark Side (link goes to the actual relevant pages), invaluable intelligence was being obtained from Al-Libi through non-coercive interrogation methods (including, reportedly, information that led to the prevention of an attack on the US embassy in Yemen.) The CIA, however, was not pleased with the results of the FBI's interrogations and took custody of Al-Libi, with Mayer recounting the jaw-dropping story of an Arabic speaking CIA agent bursting into an in-process FBI interrogation and shouting: “You’re going to Egypt! ... And while you’re there, I’m going to find your mother, and fuck her!”

During the course of the FBI's interrogation, Al-Libi had answered that he knew of no link between al Qaeda and Iraq. After undergoing in Egypt what George Tenet described as "further debriefing" in his memoir, but what we can safely surmise was torture, Al-Libi falsely said that there was a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Which was what the Bush administration wanted to hear all along.

That the architects of this perfidy continue to pollute our public discourse with attacks on our justice system - calling enforcement of our laws "partisan" or making Orwellian assertions that torture prosecutions would turn the US into a banana republic - is truly sickening.

The dead in Iraq were not made safer by tortured false confessions. The American people were not made safer by the shredding of the Constitution and our human rights values that was necessary to create the psuedo-legal rationale for criminal human rights abuses. Disregard and undermine for the rule of law -at both the domestic and international level - did not make us safer.

We are all less safe in a lawless world.

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