During a recent interview, former Vice Pres. Dick Cheney proudly assumed responsibility for the U.S. government’s program of torturing prisoners in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. “I’d do it again in a minute,” Cheney asserted.
Cheney is undoubtedly emboldened by the fact that there is no chance that he, the president he served or their minions will ever face justice for ordering the torture of prisoners, actions that were, by even the lowest standards of decency, war crimes.
Cheney and the others will escape justice, largely because the current president chooses to allow it, despite the fact that torture is illegal in this country and worldwide, under provisions of an anti-torture treaty signed by Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1984. There is also precedent for trying officials accused of torture. As was noted earlier, in 1946, the United States and its allies executed Japanese officials who ordered waterboarding of prisoners during World War II.
But the roots of America’s abhorrence to torture go back even farther, all the way to the founding. In fact, during the Revolutionary War, George Washington ordered that soldiers under his command who were found to have tortured prisoners could face execution.
In its report on the torturing of terrorist suspects by the U.S. government during the Bush-Cheney administration, the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed a long list of abuses:
Detainees were forced to stand on broken limbs for hours, kept in complete darkness, deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, sometimes standing, sometimes with their arms shackled above their heads.
Prisoners were subjected to “rectal feeding” without medical necessity. Rectal exams were conducted with “excessive force.” The report highlights one prisoner later diagnosed with anal fissures, chronic hemorrhoids and “symptomatic rectal prolapse.”
The report mentions mock executions, Russian roulette. U.S. agents threatened to slit the throat of a detainee’s mother, sexually abuse another and threatened prisoners’ children. One prisoner died of hypothermia brought on in part by being forced to sit on a bare concrete floor without pants.
In a facility codenamed COBALT, but referred to as the “Dungeon,” the United States created a chamber of horrors:
If he doesn’t think that was torture, I would invite him anywhere in the United States to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through, one of them 100-plus-odd times.
— Sen. Angus King (I-ME), in an interview on MSNBC, on Vice President Cheney defending the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA under the Bush administration.
Republicans have reacted to the Washington Post’s story last week that revealed that when Mitt Romney was a senior in prep school he bullied boys he perceived to be gay by claiming that the incident was just a youthful indiscretion and, besides, stories of physical abuse by boys do not always predict the character of the men they will grow up to be.
On the other hand, sometimes the stories are determinative. Take for example, this scandal from 1967 — two years after the Romney bullying episode took place — that arose after students at Yale complained that a fraternity was torturing its pledges. The frat’s president was George W. Bush, who, 40 years later, single-handedly turned the United States into a torture state:
Former Pres. George W. Bush is denying that the sudden cancellation of his scheduled speech at a Jewish charity event in Switzerland has anything to do with the fact that human rights groups promised he would be arrested on arrival.
Bush was to be the keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod’s annual dinner on February 12 in Geneva. But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the Alpine country.
Criminal complaints against Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials say.
Jeff Stein at CQ Politics asks a very good question of former Vice Pres. Dick Cheney.
The CIA is said to have relinquished water boarding, roughing up, sleep deprivation and other tough interrogation techniques in 2004, according to most reports.
But between Sept. 11, 2001 and the end of 2004, Cheney claims, terrorist attacks were thwarted by physically abusing detainees in the CIA’s secret prisons.
“Every senior official who has been briefed on these classified matters knows of specific attacks that were in the planning stages and were stopped by the programs we put in place,” Cheney insisted.
But what stopped terrorists from attacking after the harsh interrogation techniques were aborted five years ago?
Hmmm. We scared the terrorists (many of whom are suicide bombers) so badly that they decided to quit? Not likely.
Besides, others say, we know the effort the Bush administration put into bolstering its positions and spinning its views with photo ops, selective leaks, coordinated backdrops of key slogans, and backdoor paid P.R. and “news.” So why on earth would they have kept secret that they were not only effectively protecting us but that they could prove it?
…another former CIA official has come forward to dismiss the former vice president’s claims, saying that if the Bush administration had evidence of “torture” stopping attacks, it would have surfaced long ago.
“I cannot imagine that the system would not have leaked such a story. It would have been leaked in a New York minute,” says Milton Bearden, who was a CIA station chief in Pakistan among other assignments during his three decades in the spy agency.
“And remember, one of al Qaeda’s goals — it’s not just to attack the United States. It’s to prove that we’re hypocrites, that we don’t live up to American principles. So when we use torture and abuse, we’re playing into one of their stated goals.”