TIME’s Michael Scherer illustrates the wide gap between what the Bush administration said it did with so-called “unlawful combatants” and what it did:
“We do not torture,” President Bush said, in November of 2005.
“This government does not torture people,” the president repeated, in October of 2007.
“On the question of so-called torture, we don’t do torture. We never have. It’s not something that this administration subscribes to,” added Vice President Dick Cheney, just last month.
As Spattackerman wryly quips, “One of the things I’ll miss the least about the Bush administration is being told not to believe my lying eyes and my common sense.” Indeed. Scherer contrasts these laughable statements with an excerpt from an article in today’s WaPo by longtime Village thought leader Bob Woodward:
The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”
“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.
then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was closely monitoring the interrogation, according to Army investigator Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt. Rumsfeld was “talking weekly” with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge at Guantanamo. “The secretary of defense is personally involved in the interrogation of one person [Qahtani], and the entire General Counsel system of all the departments of the military,” Schmidt said, in a statement that Benjamin and I obtained. Of Miller’s claim that he did not know all the grisly details of the Qahtani interrogation, Schmidt added, “There is just not a too-busy alibi there for that.”
Perhaps more of these twilight admissions and accusations of top-level culpability on the part of the Bush administration will counteract calls coming from within certain Serious circles for a mulligan on torture (scuttlebutt that may be having an impact on the President-elect). It’s up to us DFHs to stay shrill, because there’s already a concerted PR effort underway to scrub the Bush record and seize the narrative.
Digby, responding to the recent goalpost-shifting attempt by Stuart Taylor and Evan Thomas to frame conventional wisdom on “intense interrogation”, outlines what we–and the President-elect–are facing:
We are now engaged in a battle to persuade Obama that he must unequivocally and publicly disavow what those two jaded, decadent sadists just suggested was necessary lest he risk Americans being killed. Good luck to us on that. Considering Obama’s propensity for consensus, I would guess that he will find some way to appease them. (Maybe he’ll vow to make sure that the torturers don’t enjoy it, as a sop to the liberal freaks.)
But I would suggest that Obama contemplate one little thing before he decides to try to find “middle ground” on torture. It is a trap. If he continues to torture in any way or even tacitly agrees to allow it in certain circumstances, the intelligence community will make sure it is leaked. They want protection from both parties and there is no better way to do it than to implicate Obama. And the result of that will be to destroy his foreign policy.
Bottom line: closing Guantanamo, while a welcome and very necessary gesture on the part of the incoming administration, is not enough. The rule of law, bent to the point of unrecognizability during the Bush era, can only be reaffirmed if those responsible for deliberately undermining and circumventing it are held fully accountable for their actions and Obama, firmly and without equivocation, denounces and rejects what the previous administration to the day claims was necessary to protect the nation.