Sunday, May 3, 2009

Carl Bloice: The Hush-Hush Story: Why They Tortured

Left Margin

The Hush-Hush Story: Why They Tortured

By Carl Bloice Editorial Board

It's like a can of worms from which a few are
slithering out. Most of the major media have avoided
even approaching it. But if it is as is being suggested
the implications are enormous, touching not only on the
real reason prisoners were tortured but, as well, into
the real origin of the war in Iraq.

The US Senate Armed Services Committee report, issued
April 21, on the interrogation techniques employed
against detainees following the September 11 terrorist
attack, wrote Pepe Escobar in the Asia Times, "reads
like deja vu all over again: the US establishment under
Bush was a replay of the Spanish Inquisition. And it
all started even before a single `high-profile al-Qaeda
detainee' was captured. What Bush, vice president Dick
Cheney, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and assorted
little inquisitors wanted was above all to prove the
non-existent link between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al-
Qaeda, the better to justify a pre-emptive, illegal war
planned by the now-defunct Project for the New American
Century (PNAC) in the late 1990s. The torture memos
were just a cog in the imperial machine."

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman mentioned it in
his column April 24, writing, "For the fact is that
officials in the Bush administration instituted torture
as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted
to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt
to extract `confessions' that would justify that war.
And during the march to war, most of the political and
media establishment looked the other way." Krugman was
more explicit in his blog, titled "Grand Unified
Scandal" appearing the previous day, after the Senate
report came out. "Let's say this slowly: the Bush
administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to
invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with
9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the
nonexistent link," he wrote. "There's a word for this:
it's evil."

The impetus for the comment by Krugman and Escobar was
a story carried April 21 in the McClatchy Newspapers by
Jonathan S. Landay The story has made the rounds on the
internet and in some of the foreign press but as of
this writing has been ignored or obscured by most of
the major U.S. media.

"The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on
interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part
to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and
the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime,
according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official
and a former Army psychiatrist," wrote Landay. "Such
information would've provided a foundation for one of
former President George W. Bush's main arguments for
invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever
been found of operational ties between Osama bin
Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

"The use of abusive interrogation - widely considered
torture - as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to
invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major
report tracing the origin of the abuses and President
Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S.
officials for approving them."

Landay went on to quote "A former senior U.S.
intelligence official familiar with the interrogation
issue" saying former Vice President Dick Cheney and
former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld `demanded that
the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were
so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,"
Landay was told. "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."

"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," the informant
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," Landay was told.

The Senate report itself quoted a former U.S. Army
psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, who told Army
investigators three years ago that interrogators at the
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under
"pressure" to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida
and Iraq.

"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," Burney told staff of
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."

Another newspaper that carried the story of the Senate
report that included the Iraq connection was the
Detroit News. Reporter Gordon Trowbridge wrote that
"Administration officials repeatedly tried to link Iraq
and al-Qaida in public statements as a potential
justification for the war, but intelligence reviews
have discredited the notion of significant links
between the two. The accusation that senior officials
chose to pursue interrogation tactics in pursuit of
such information is likely to further anger opponents
of the Iraq invasion and of harsh interrogation
techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation,
putting prisoners in stress positions for long periods
of time or exposing them to extreme heat and cold or
loud noises and music."

Trowbridge's report indicates that one of Cheney and
Rumsfeld's "people" was none other than the latter's
number two Paul Wolfowitz, a long time vociferous
advocate of an attack in Iraq. He is said to have asked
for regular updates on the interrogations.

"I think it's obvious that the administration was
scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link
(between al Qaida and Iraq)," said Senate Armed
Services Committee, chair by Sen. Carl Levin, (D-Mi).
"They made out links where they didn't exist."

"So now we know: Saddam made them do it," wrote Charley
James, "The Progressive Curmudgeon, in the very
informative and lively L.A. Progressive []. "The Levin report into
Pentagon torture . tore down the last false flag flying
on the devil ship SS Torture, revealing that
waterboarding and all the rest of the barbaric acts
performed in our name on prisoners resulted from
Cheney's frustration at not getting what he wanted:
Someone to pin 9/11 on Saddam and `fess up about how
bin Laden was sleeping with The Tyrant of Baghdad."

"Reasonable people ought to be able to reach consensus
on a few key points: Harsh interrogation methods should
be used only as a last resort," says Clifford D. May,
president of the rightwing Foundation for the Defense
of Democracies (founded two days after September 11,
and chair of the Policy hawkish Committee of the
Committee on the Present Danger (CPD). "They should
never be used for revenge, punishment or to force
confessions." However, as James observes, it beginning
to look like forcing a confession is exactly what the
neo-conservative cabal in the White House and the
Pentagon was up to.

Writing in The Guardian (UK) April 24, Matthew Duss
drew attention to Rand Beers - a former NSC
counterterrorism adviser who resigned over the war
"which he correctly predicted would be disastrous for
American security, and who was recently nominated for
an under-secretary position at the Department of
Homeland Security, concerning accused Al Qaeda
operative Ibn al Sheikh Al-Libi who after being
captured by the US in Afghanistan in late 2001, under
torture - "evidence" of a tie between Al Qaeda and
Iraq. As Beers recounted last year, `Al-Libi's
testimony was used by the Bush administration to
substantiate its allegations that Iraq was prepared to
provide al-Qaida with weapons of mass destruction.'
However, Beers continued, `in January 2004, al-Libi
recanted his confession. He said that he had invented
the information because he was afraid of being further
abused by his interrogators. . The administration's
best case for the value of enhanced interrogation
techniques, then, turned out to have been fundamentally

"We now know that torture is inextricably tied to the
Iraq war. Far from defusing "ticking time bombs",
torture was employed by the Bush administration in
order to generate information that would support their
planned invasion of Iraq."

Notice the word "planned" here. The effort to extract
evidence of a tie between September 11 and the
government of Saddam Hussein began before the invasion
was launched. It is obvious now that the attack was in
the making before the attack on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon.

"But the torture of al Libi worked to sell the war in
Iraq, providing the "evidence" that Secretary of State
Colin Powell used when he spoke before the United
Nations Security Council in February 2003," Steve
Weissman wrote on truthout last Saturday. "I can trace
the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how
Iraq provided training in these [chemical and
biological] weapons to al-Qaeda," Powell asserted.
"Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he
has told his story."

It now appears that then U.S. National Security Advisor
and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the
first official to give the go ahead for employing
"enhanced interrogation techniques." Why her? And, why
the hurry? She is declining comment now but maybe she
could explain the strange statement she made at a press
briefing in May 2002. "I don't think anybody could have
predicted ... that they would try to use an airplane as
a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile," Rice said
at a press briefing in May 2002. Actually the
Administration was warned that something was afoot ad
that it probably would involve airplanes. Was the
surprise that it happened or the way that it happened
and was the idea to blame whatever happened on Saddam

This week, former Ambassador Joe Wilson wrote in his
blog, Daily Beast:

"Cheney's request for the declassification of material
is a welcome development, but it should not be limited
to his narrow request. Our country's understanding of
what was done in our name by the Bush administration
depends on the release, not just of the documents
Cheney has designated, but of all documents related to
the efforts of the Bush administration and Cheney
himself to defend the indefensible-the decision to
invade Iraq despite the knowledge at the time that Iraq
did not have a nuclear program, had no ties to al
Qaeda, and posed no existential threat to the United
States or to its friends and allies in the region.

"The disinformation campaign to manipulate public
opinion in favor of the invasion, the torture program,
and the illegal exposure of a clandestine CIA agent-my
wife, Valerie Plame Wilson - were linked events. In
their desperate effort to gather material to whip up
public support, Cheney and others resorted to torture,
well known in the intelligence craft to elicit
inherently unreliable information. Cheney & Co. then
pressured the CIA to put its stamp of approval on a
series of falsehoods-26 of which were inserted into
Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech before the
United Nations Security Council. At the same time,
Cheney was furiously attempting to suppress the true
information that Saddam Hussein was not seeking
yellowcake uranium in Niger. After I published the
facts in an article in The New York Times in July 2002,
Cheney tried to punish me and discredit the truth by
directing the outing of a CIA operative who happened to
be my wife.

The suggestion that Bush Administration used torture in
an effort to get a prisoner to back up their previously
made claim that Iraq was linked to despicable 911
terrorist attacks is reason enough to insist that there
be a special commission to look into the matter. I
suspect that much of the resistance to doing so flows
from concern that question might arise about other
things involved in the run-up to the war. Like, why
were the plotters were so desperate to link 911 to
Iraq? Could it be that some sort of attack on U.S. soil
was anticipated and whatever happened, the finger would
be pointed at Baghdad? A can of worms indeed.
_____ Editorial Board member Carl Bloice
is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly
worked for a healthcare union.