by digby

I'm watching a leering Dan Lundgren on Hardball spout the usual blather about how "we need to remember where we were" when all this torture took place. According to the torture apologists we were wetting our pants in fear that the boogey men were coming to kill us all in our beds any second and so we can't be held responsible for committing war crimes.

For the sake of argument, let's say that's an acceptable excuse for adults to make. Where the logic of that argument breaks down is the actions the Bush administration took in other areas -- invading Iraq for instance. From nearly the moment 9/11 happened Cheney, Rummy and the neocons were working up a case to invade Iraq based not upon evidence that Iraq posed a threat, but based upon a long standing grudge against Saddam Hussein, a grudge that was documented and argued for long before 9/11.

I hate to drag this moldy old stuff out again, but apparently, it has to be done. I wrote this in the very first week I started this blog over six years ago:

Invading Iraq on a thin pretext (which is what is going to happen because this war is already timed for American convenience and nothing else) is possibly going to set off chain of events that could have been avoided if we handled the situation with a little more sophistication and finesse instead of fulfilling some long held neocon wet dream. And that is the real problem.

The Wolfowitz/Perle school never took terrorism seriously when it was becoming a threat on the world stage and they don't take it seriously now. The influential CSP issued only 2 reports since the 1998 embassy bombing about the threat of terrorism until 9/11. The PNAC has been wringing their hands about Iraq and pushing for missile defense for years, but terrorism was hardly even on the radar screen. They are about China, Iraq, North Korea, Israel, US "benevolent" hegemony and missile defense. Period. Anything else will be subsumed under what they believe is the real agenda.

As with the ever changing justifications for the tax cuts for their rich friends, Bush and his foreign policy mavens are so myopic that they pursue their preordained agenda no matter what the current situation. They seem completely incapable of exercising any flexibility in light of changing circumstances. They just find a way to use the changing circumstances to justify what they plan to do anyway.


The Bush administration shows every day that they are willing to compromise American security rather than compromise goals that anyone else would have reevaluated in light of the new priorities wrought by the destruction and death of September 11th. But, apparently even the demolition of the World Trade Center was not enough to blow them off the course they set those many years ago.

One can only hope that their misguided relentlessness doesn't blow back on us in ways that are too terrible to contemplate.

The fact that they insisted on going into Iraq, exacerbating the hatred in the mid east, making the whole world mistrust us, simply because 9/11 provided a pretext to do what they had wanted to do for years before the attacks, puts the lie to all of these excuses about our post 9/11 "mindset" leading us to be so worried about the next terrorist attack that we had to torture prisoners to keep the babies safe.

If they had cared about keeping the babies safe they wouldn't have invaded a country in the middle east which had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks, thereby giving the Islamic fundamentalists and the rest of the world good reason to believe that we had completely lost our moorings and proving everything the terrorists said about us.

And we know now that the two worst ecsions of the Bush years -- torture and Iraq --- are intertwined, don't we? Check this out:

Robert Windrem, who covered terrorism for NBC, reports exclusively in The Daily Beast that:

*Two U.S. intelligence officers confirm that Vice President Cheney’s office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection.

*The former chief of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, in charge of interrogations, tells The Daily Beast that he considered the request reprehensible.

*Much of the information in the report of the 9/11 Commission was provided through more than 30 sessions of torture of detainees.

At the end of April 2003, not long after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces captured an Iraqi who Bush White House officials suspected might provide information of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi was the head of the M-14 section of Mukhabarat, one of Saddam’s secret police organizations. His responsibilities included chemical weapons and contacts with terrorist groups.

Two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard an Iraqi prisoner came from the Office of Vice President Cheney.

“To those who wanted or suspected a relationship, he would have been a guy who would know, so [White House officials] had particular interest,” Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraqi Survey Group and the man in charge of interrogations of Iraqi officials, told me. So much so that the officials, according to Duelfer, inquired how the interrogation was proceeding.

In his new book, Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq, and in an interview with The Daily Beast, Duelfer says he heard from “some in Washington at very senior levels (not in the CIA),” who thought Khudayr’s interrogation had been “too gentle” and suggested another route, one that they believed has proven effective elsewhere. “They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding, should be used,” Duelfer writes. “The executive authorities addressing those measures made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism cases, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related. The debriefings were just debriefings, even for this creature.”

Duelfer will not disclose who in Washington had proposed the use of waterboarding, saying only: “The language I can use is what has been cleared.” In fact, two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard came from the Office of Vice President Cheney. Cheney, of course, has vehemently defended waterboarding and other harsh techniques, insisting they elicited valuable intelligence and saved lives. He has also asked that several memoranda be declassified to prove his case. (The Daily Beast placed a call to Cheney’s office and will post a response if we get one.)

Without admitting where the suggestion came from, Duelfer revealed that he considered it reprehensible and understood the rationale as political—and ultimately counterproductive to the overall mission of the Iraq Survey Group, which was assigned the mission of finding Saddam Hussein’s WMD after the invasion.

“Everyone knew there would be more smiles in Washington if WMD stocks were found,” Duelfer said in the interview. “My only obligation was to find the truth. It would be interesting if there was WMD in May 2003, but what was more interesting to me was looking at the entire regime through the slice of WMD.”

But, Duelfer says, Khudayr in fact repeatedly denied knowing the location of WMD or links between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda and was not subjected to any enhanced interrogation. Duelfer says the idea that he would have known of such links was “ludicrous".

By now there is overwhelming evidence that Cheney was desperate to find a connection between Iraq and 9/11. He pressured the CIA. He outed a CIA agent. He went on television and said that it was proven. What we didn't know until recently was the extent to which he was pressuring the CIA to torture false confessions out of prisoners to back up his claims. Much of that still remains cloudy, but it's quite clear to sentient beings that there were people involved in the torture regime who had to know very well that the torture they employed was designed to produce false confessions. The CIA and the top echelons of the Pentagon and the White House simply aren't that dumb.

So, now we find out that it's likely Cheney wanted to waterboard Iraqis too, and was only stopped because a quasi-independent investigation was involved. Big surprise.

As Greenwald writes today, torture is just one of many things the United States did in the last few years to garner the extreme hatred of people around the world, so it's not really reasonable to say that these pictures will somehow make it worse. It's hardly possible for it to be worse. But using torture to manufacture a false casus belli to justify the invasion of Iraq is so bad that it has to be confronted or this country will be seen as a very dangerous, rogue superpower forever. There is nothing more dangerous to our national security. Schoolyard bully ideology and crazed incoherence is a luxury in which a powerful nation simply can't afford to indulge. Kim Jong Il is hardly more nutty than Cheney at this point.

*And in case anyone thinks that all of the public support for torture is based upon some highminded belief that they had to get information to prevent further attacks, here's a letter sent in to Jack Cafferty today in response to his query about whether Obama should have withheld the Iraq photos:

As long as they also show the photos of the people who had to jump from the World trade center, of the planes crashing into the twin towers and the pentagon, etc, then I have no problem with the torture photos. I'm sure most people would say to you, these people weren't tortured enough.

The Iraqis shown in the photos had nothing to do with 9/11, of course. And this person obviously sees the torture fulfilling a slightly different function than intelligence gathering. I suspect she's not alone in that sentiment. They all look alike, right?

Update: I'm sure you've all seen this other bombshell from Lawrence Wilkerson, declaring that Cheney order more waterboarding even after he was "compliant" in his mad search for links between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Cheney stopped ordering this torture only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi confessed to such ties under waterboarding in Egypt.

As Marcy writes:

.... sometime in February 2002--when Bush was declaring that the Geneva Convention did not apply to al Qaeda and when Bruce Jessen was pitching torture to JPRA--Cheney was personally (according to Wilkerson) ordering up waterboarding. The DIA immediately labeled the result of this session of waterboarding probable disinformation.

And a month later, when the CIA captured Abu Zubaydah, James Mitchell immediately set up as a contractor so he could waterboard Abu Zubaydah.

We chose waterboarding--not simply torture, but waterboarding itself--knowing it'd be unreliable. Or rather, Dick Cheney chose it.

That does appear to be the case. They were saying it wasn't reliable even as it was happening. One can only conclude that was exactly why Cheney kept ordering it to be done until he got what he wanted.