From Robert, Huff Post:
“Last Sunday a veritable flotilla of neocon former Bush Administration national security officials flooded the zone on the Sunday Morning talk shows. They were engaged in a desperate attempt to rewrite history — to argue that their methods of “enhanced interrogation” — provided the pivotal information that led to President Obama’s successful apprehension of Osama Bin Laden.
Notable “experts” — like former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and former Vice President Dick Cheney argued authoritatively that “enhanced interrogation techniques” had provided the critical information that allowed Obama to find Bin Laden — eight years later.
Even though they behave like they have inside information, it is important to note that all of these former officials are exactly that — former. In 2008 the American voters had the good sense to make them former — since then, none of them has been privy to any thing more than the information that is available to the general public about the factors did or did not result in finding the location of Bin Laden.
That said, the information that is available publicly indicates that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad — the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, did in fact provide the “nickname” of one of Bin Laden’s couriers eight years ago. Khalid Sheik Mohammad (KSM) had in fact been subjected to repeated waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation.” The problem with their theory is that KSM did not divulge this information as a result of this “enhanced interrogation.” Apparently it was divulged many months later as a result of conventional methods. And the “nickname” of the courier was useless until signal intelligence allowed the United States to identify the real name and identity of the actual courier many years later.
In fact, the Obama Administration located Bin Laden because it re-focused substantial intelligence resources on the problem. It did the blocking and tackling of rigorous data analysis and painstaking surveillance. In other words rather than the bull-in-a-china-closet swagger and big talk that we heard from Bush and his team for years, Obama did the hard work necessary to quietly and effectively get the job done. Bush and company had failed miserably.
It’s pretty amazing that anyone would take Cheney and Rumsfeld seriously. Never mind that they diverted most of the government’s security resources away from the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to their war in Iraq. Never mind that their “enhanced interrogation techniques” were used as the recruiting posters that enlisted thousands of terrorists bent on destroying the United States. Never mind that when they left office America’s prestige and popularity in the world had been squandered and was at an all time low.
Remember that just as in domestic politics, in world politics it matters if you have public support. That is especially true if the Muslim world continues its movement toward more democratic societies.
But in the end, the very fact that a coterie of former high-ranking officials are even making the argument that torture works is an embarrassment to America.
As a country, we need to emerge from this debate having placed the argument that “torture works” outside of the boundaries of acceptable political discourse once and for all.
In considering whether “torture works” the first question is: what do we mean by “works”? Torture has been used for centuries to achieve a variety of goals. It has been used to force subjects to tell what they know, to confess to crimes, to renounce their faith.
There is little question that torture gets a response from its victims. That’s why its practitioners find it “useful.” But that is also what makes its results completely unreliable. It isn’t hard for anyone to imagine that they would say pretty much anything to make the pain stop if they believed they were drowning, or if their joints felt they would break after they had hung by their arms for hours, or if they were repeatedly slammed against the wall, or if they had been left naked and shivering for hours in the cold and periodically showered with cold water, or if they had been confined in a small box for hours with insects. All of these were methods approved by the Bush Justice Department.
These are but the latest innovations in the tradition of ingenious, sadistic methods of inflicting pain and psychological torment. Over the centuries, torturers have invented machines like the rack to gradually tear apart people’s limbs. They have used rubber hoses to beat the bottom of people’s feet to a pulp. They have become adept at removing fingernails, and drilling on teeth without an anesthetic. They have learned to connect the exact amount of electric current a victim’s testicles or nipples in order to inflict maximum pain without ultimately killing the subject. And of course there has always been the ever-popular old-fashioned beating. While these were not on the list of approved methods, they differ only modestly from those on the “approved list.” All inflict excruciating physical or psychological pain.
It is precisely the fact that torture inflicts pain that makes it hard to believe the results of the intelligence that is gathered, or the truthfulness of a confession, or the sincerity of a renunciation of faith. That’s why most professionals who specialize in interrogation reject the reliability of the information gained by torture, and why courts throw out confessions obtained by torture.
That in fact is why we have the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution— to prevent the coerced confessions that were commonplace in 18th Century Europe. Remember, the Fifth Amendment is not just about protecting the rights of the accused. It is also about protecting society from the coerced, false confession that leaves the real criminal on the street…
Can’t the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the “intelligence” that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?
Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America? Have we so lost our bearings that we do not realize that each of us could be the hapless Argentine who sat under the Santiago’s sun, so possessed by the evil done to him that he could not stop shivering ?”