‘These people belong in a prison cell.’

by matttbastard

Re: revelations in the newly released Senate Armed Services Committee report on US torture that the Bush admin began planning the program in 2001 and that torture was utilized to gin up a link between Iraq and al-Qaida, what Radley Balko said:

So they tortured Gitmo detainees to get information, which turned out to be false, to build support for a war they had already made up their mind they would wage.

And keep in mind, these decisions were made by political appointees. Not JAGs, not military generals, not even veteran CIA agents (most people in all three positions actually opposed these policies). They were made by neocon warmongers with little to no actual military or interrogation experience who hadn’t the slightest idea what they were doing.

These people belong in a prison cell. To excuse them is to say that no abuse of power should be punishable so long as you can come up with some tortured justification about how you were only trying to protect the country.

The headline to a recent op-ed by Simon Jenkins (h/t Sarah) bottom-lines things perfectly:

‘Cheney and the apologists of torture distrust democracy.’

Special prosecutor NAO.

Related: Hilzoy on the ‘”perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm” that helped put the CIA torture program into action (although ‘ignorance’ seems to be a bullshit excuse):

This is what happens when we stop demanding minimal competence in our Presidents; when we start caring more about who we would rather have a beer with than, oh, who would be most likely to seek out the best advice and listen to all sides of an argument before making an important decision, or whose judgment we can trust. We end up with people who toss aside our most fundamental values because someone who has never conducted an interrogation before thinks it might be a good idea, and no one bothers to do the basic background research on what he proposes.

Of course, keep in mind what Nell points out (and Balko implicitly recognizes) in this must-read post:

One of the most persistent and discouraging themes that crops up in discussions of torture is the question of whether it “works” or not. The people engaging this question make a fatally wrong assumption: that the goal of torturers is the same as that of legitimate interrogators — to get reliable information useful for active, circumscribed military operations or police investigations.

But torture does something else altogether, and is designed to do so: it extracts false confessions. These confessions, along with the agony of the torture itself, serve the goals of limitless, lawless “war”: to humiliate and break opponents, to divide them from supporters, to terrify those not actively in opposition into staying inactive, and, most importantly, to justify the operations of the dirty war within which torture takes place: commando raids, assassinations, spying, kidnaping, secret and/or indefinite (and unreviewable) detention, and further torture.

The mistaken assumption that those in the previous administration who set the torture policy were motivated solely by an urgent need for information has several other bad effects. It reinforces the absurd ticking-bomb hypothetical that allows so many people to justify torture to themselves. It provides a noble-sounding excuse for the officials who promoted torture, making it harder for citizens to muster the will to hold them legally accountable for their crimes: “They were just trying to keep the country safe.”

The euphemism of “enhanced interrogation” for torture was chosen by both the Nazis and the Bush-Cheney regime exactly because of its propaganda value in reinforcing this false picture: It’s just legitimate questioning that goes a little further. An error of enthusiasm, if you will. An understandable mistake, a policy difference that we sure don’t want to criminalize, looking backward with our 20-20 hindsight.

But, as useful as these effects are to the torturing regime, the most important role of the spurious linkage with intelligence-gathering and interrogation is as a screen: It hides the role of torture in creating and expanding the dirty war itself.

Flashback: Via Democracy Now: Mark Benjamin and Katherine Eban on Mitchell Jessen & Associates, the shrinks who transformed SERE into CIA torture (yes, torture).

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T-Dot’s Favourite Birdcage Liner Outdoes Itself – UPDATED; UPDATED 11.06: Welcome Galloping Beaver Readers!

by matttbastard

Ok. I always knew the Toronto Sun wasn’t exactly the most progressive daily in the Great White North, but this goes above and beyond anything I’ve ever read within its garish tabloid pages (including some choice Michael Coren columns):

So now that we’ve established that the detainees in question aren’t even protected by the Geneva convention, and that they often have crucial information that can save lives, what about the idea of waterboarding as “torture”?

When asked about it during a recent CNN appearance, I suggested that “one man’s torture is another’s CIA-sponsored swim lesson.” In case anyone thought I was being facetious — I wasn’t.

Not sure what’s more offensive: the trite, almost gleeful apologia for torture, or the also-ran, reheated strudel tenor of the piece. Memo to Quebecor: the world only needs one Ann Coulter. Why give her less-talented brunette doppelgänger a dead tree forum to spew rote, third-rate right-wing rants?

That’s what blogs are for.

TheManWithNoPoint @ A Creative Revolution has put out the action call. Send your respectful correspondence to:



Editorial page editor:


[edit: Quebecor, Inc contact info:

Head Office
612 rue St-Jacques Street
Montreal, Quebec
Canada H3C 4M8
Tel.: (514) 954-0101
(800) 567-7070
Fax: (514) 954-9624]

Related: Frank Frink (in ACR comments) has more details on the ever so delightful Rachel Marsden. [edit expanded on the ACR main page by the one and only pale.] Seriously, she makes even Debbie Stussel Schlussel seem…well, ok, but not quite as…alright, they’re all equally fucked up, but…

Update: Via Think Progress, as noted above, Marsden first coined the waterboarding = ‘CIA-sponsored swim lesson’ one-liner last Wednesday on The Situation Room while defending controversial prospective Attorney General Michael Mukasey:

As TP observes, “Marsden’s analogy is reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh’s distasteful contention that Abu Ghraib was nothing more than guards “having a good time,” “blow[ing] some steam off.””

Update 2: You know, it’s one thing for a D-list Coulter wannabe to casually deny the fact that waterboarding is indeed torture, but quite another for a top State Department official to essentially do the same thing (albeit minus the pithy sound bite):

The top legal adviser within the US state department, who counsels the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, on international law, has declined to rule out the use of the interrogation technique known as waterboarding even if it were applied by foreign intelligence services on US citizens. John Bellinger refused to denounce the technique, which has been condemned by human rights groups as a form of torture, during a debate on the Bush administration’s stance on international law held by Guardian America, the Guardian’s US website. He said he would not include or exclude any technique without first considering whether it violated the convention on torture.

Said Bellinger:

One would have to apply the facts to the law, the law to the facts, to determine whether any technique, whatever it happened to be, would cause severe physical pain or suffering… .

…I’m not willing to include…or exclude [the possibility of water boarding being used on a United States national by foreign intelligence service], I mean, these are issues that our justice department as a matter of interpreting both the domestic law on torture and international law, has concluded that just don’t want to get involved in abstract discussions of applying the law to any set of facts.

Now, I don’t want to get all argumentum ad verecundiam on Marsden and Bellinger, but I’ll give the final word on the matter to Malcolm Nance:

As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people.


Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.


If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives.


According to the President, this is not a torture, so future torturers in other countries now have an American legal basis to perform the acts. Every hostile intelligence agency and terrorist in the world will consider it a viable tool, which can be used with impunity. It has been turned into perfectly acceptable behavior for information finding.

A torture victim can be made to say anything by an evil nation that does not abide by humanity, morality, treaties or rule of law. Today we are on the verge of becoming that nation. Is it possible that September 11 hurt us so much that we have decided to gladly adopt the tools of KGB, the Khmer Rouge, the Nazi Gestapo, the North Vietnamese, the North Koreans and the Burmese Junta?

Update 3 11.06: Welcome Galloping Beaver readers! Here’s what we have thus far:

I’ve started compiling a list of advertisors whose ads have been served up to me directly on the Marsden column web page. Feel free to add on and pile on. Obviously these are being served up through the Canoe.ca network (Canoe.ca is another Quebec/Sun Media property), and done through media buying services not the advertisors directly but they should be made aware that they have been associated with the condoning of illegal torture.

Here’s what prole and I have found so far:

Second City www.secondcity.com

ebay – www.ebay.ca


toronto film school – http://www.torontofilmschool.ca/

Sheraton Fallsview http://www.fallsview.com


PJ’s Pet Centres- www.pjspet.com



Sheridan College – www.sheridaninstitute.ca

thorncrest ford – http://thorncrestsherway.dealerconnection.com/?lang=en

East Court Ford – www.eastcourtfordlincoln.com

Ontario Science Centre http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/

Summit Ford 12 Carrier Drive, Rexdale, ON M9V 2C1 1-800-397-2017

tdwaterhouse – http://www.tdwaterhouse.ca

Plaza Auto Group – http://www.plazaautogroup.com/


Please take heed of Prole’s sound advice:

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Mind your manners!

[edited om 11.05 to add original Marsden quote, correct some glaring errors and for overall clarity. I hate posting @ work.]

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