Friday, December 09, 2005

What goes around... comes around

Perhaps you've been following the debate on torture. Do we or don't we? Should we or should we not? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? What conditions have been set by senior leadership and senior administration officials and our elected leadership?
((Don't be content with only a teaser of this post;
read more of this musing.))

There are only a handful of politicans I actually respect. John McCain is one of them. From a couple of days ago, about the Senator's bill to get the USA out of the torture business:

McCain's provision barring cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners is one of several in legislation setting military policy that address controversies triggered by the global war on terror and the conflict in Iraq....

McCain, a Republican of Arizona, was tortured as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. His measure, an amendment to the defense authorization bill, would make United Nations' treaty language regarding prisoner abuse a standard for the U.S. military. It passed the Senate by a vote of 90-9.

President George W. Bush initially threatened to veto any legislation with McCain's provision. The White House then offered to go along with the provision if CIA agents working overseas were exempt from any restrictions.

Bush's national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, sought yesterday to negotiate a deal with McCain that would give CIA agents some protection from prosecution.

McCain opposed any changes to his amendment, spokeswoman Eileen McMenamin today said. ``The senator has said that any effort to change our amendment in the conference committee report would be totally unacceptable,'' she said.
One of the things McCain has said is that torture doesn't provide good intelligence. And of all the elected officials, he ought to know.
Obviously, to defeat our enemies we need intelligence, but intelligence that is reliable. We should not torture or treat inhumanely terrorists we have captured. The abuse of prisoners harms, not helps, our war effort. In my experience, abuse of prisoners often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear—whether it is true or false—if he believes it will relieve his suffering. I was once physically coerced to provide my enemies with the names of the members of my flight squadron, information that had little if any value to my enemies as actionable intelligence. But I did not refuse, or repeat my insistence that I was required under the Geneva Conventions to provide my captors only with my name, rank and serial number. Instead, I gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line, knowing that providing them false information was sufficient to suspend the abuse. It seems probable to me that the terrorists we interrogate under less than humane standards of treatment are also likely to resort to deceptive answers that are perhaps less provably false than that which I once offered.
I love it! The Packers' offensive line.

So, why bother blogging about this today? Well, it seems that perhaps some of that intel we used as justification for invading Iraq was obtained under torture conditions. It may as well have been the offensive line. From today's New York Times:
The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.

The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.

The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts. The Bush administration used Mr. Libi's accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda included training in explosives and chemical weapons.

The fact that Mr. Libi recanted after the American invasion of Iraq and that intelligence based on his remarks was withdrawn by the C.I.A. in March 2004 has been public for more than a year. But American officials had not previously acknowledged either that Mr. Libi made the false statements in foreign custody or that Mr. Libi contended that his statements had been coerced.
So, let me get this straight: The VP convinces the President that we sometimes have to go to the darkside. Leaders set the conditions & we torture; we get shitty intel, but it meshes with what we want to see. We invade Iraq. And two thousand American military personnel lose their lives and thousands more lose limbs. All because the US didn't take the high road.


1 comment:

  1. There is a lot to be said for the high road, even from a point of self-interest. I was recently looking at ethical investment, and I found out that it often performs better than standard investment because the companies are less likely to get sued, etc. Often things that are wrong are wrong for ourselves as well as others. Cosmic balance? Hehe, who knows.

    I hope you don't mind me self-advertising, but I have an entry on my blog covering the history of articles relating to the al-Libi case. There is also another case where the threat of torture was enough for a detainee to fabricate parts of their statement.