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Crossposted from Docudharma

Both Greenwald and Booman have pieces up on torture. Which is of course the subject of The Citizens Petition: Special Prosecutor for Bush War Crimes. Both highlight the arguments FOR torture by folks who can only be classified as morally confused torture apologists, arguing that torture is necessary under certain circumstances. Booman, Greenwald and I all seem to think that War Crimes are called War Crimes for a reason, but these folks seem to be saying that War Crimes are okay under extreme conditions....such as... war.

Ignoring that the whole point of having a specific set of moral codes and treaties and laws dealing specifically with those circumstances exist, and have been violated. One is tempted to even go so far as to call them Holocaust deniers, since it was after those terrible events that it became obvious that a clear set of laws was needed so that men in time of war were not led into those same temptations.

The most cited excuse for torture is of course the (as far as we know) completely mythical Ticking Time Bomb Scenario. Wherein through some vast set of coincidences you have in custody someone who knows of an urgently imminent attack that will kill a theoretically unacceptable amount of hypothetical people and the only way to prevent there possible demise is to torture information out of the person who has been miraculously put in your power at just the right time. Mythical, because no one anywhere has ever pointed to a specific, verifiable situation where this far-fetched scenario has actually occurred.

Yet the torture apologists constantly harp on this scenario, ostensibly one must think, for the purpose of stretching this supposedly moral point to excuse ALL of the torture that has been done in our name.

Even though none of that torture fits the mythical scenario, and ignoring the fact that any human being tortured (as has been well documented in any serious study on torture) will tell the torturers whatever the hell they want to get the torture to stop. They will...gasp...lie or invent facts to satisfy the torturers.

But most incredibly, the torture apologists use the Ticking Time Bomb Scenario to argue against having laws and penalties for torture.

I would like to ask Mort Kondracke (the subject of Booman's piece) one question: If you were the intelligence officer in question and could save these hypothetical thousands of lives...but had to break a law to do so and suffer the consequences of that law....if you were certain that torturing would prevent that terrible loss of life....would you NOT voluntarily suffer any and all legal consequence?

In other words...if you could save thousands of lives...but might have to go to jail for it, would you then decline to torture to get that information? Or is that hypothetical moral choice so unclear that a law to prevent the more 'casual' use of torture would stop you from saving those lives?

That choice NEVER occurred.

But would you let the fact that others had been tried for torture in lesser circumstances dictate that moral choice for you?

That choice NEVER occurred.

And yet the Bush Administartion still developed and extensively used a huge, nearly industrial, network of secret prisons, rendition flights, and methods that are clearly and unequivocally recognized as torture. With FAR less motivation than any Ticking Time Bomb.

They should be tried and punished to the full extent of the law. And the only thing preventing that is the patently false and morally bankrupt excuses of the torture apologists.

Please take the time to go read Tortured Reasoning by David Rose, in Vanity Fair

President Bush has said it works extremely well, insisting it has been a vital weapon in America’s counterterrorist arsenal. Vice President Dick Cheney and C.I.A. director Michael Hayden have made similar assertions. In fact, time and again, Bush has been given opportunities to distance his administration from the use of coercive methods but has stood steadfastly by their use. His most detailed exposition came in a White House announcement on September 6, 2006, when he said such tactics had led to the capture of top al-Qaeda operatives and had thwarted a number of planned attacks, including plots to strike U.S. Marines in Djibouti, fly planes into office towers in London, and detonate a radioactive "dirty" bomb in America. "Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives."

Really? In researching this article, I spoke to numerous counterterrorist officials from agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts.....


Bush discussed Abu Zubaydah’s treatment in his 2006 announcement. "As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the C.I.A. used an alternative set of procedures.... The procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary." Soon, Bush went on, Abu Zubaydah "began to provide information on key al-Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September 11." Among them, Bush said, were Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, and his fellow conspirator Ramzi Binalshibh. In fact, Binalshibh was not arrested for another six months and K.S.M. not for another year. In K.S.M.’s case, the lead came from an informant motivated by a $25 million reward.

As for K.S.M. himself, who (as Jane Mayer writes) was waterboarded, reportedly hung for hours on end from his wrists, beaten, and subjected to other agonies for weeks, Bush said he provided "many details of other plots to kill innocent Americans." K.S.M. was certainly knowledgeable. It would be surprising if he gave up nothing of value. But according to a former senior C.I.A. official, who read all the interrogation reports on K.S.M., "90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit." A former Pentagon analyst adds: "K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were."

And of course, please go sign the petition!

Dear Attorney General Designate Holder,

We the undersigned citizens of the United States hereby formally petition you to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute any and all government officials who have participated in War Crimes.

These crimes  are being euphemistically referred to as "abusive interrogation techniques" by such respected figures as Senator John McCain. These are euphemisms for torture. Torture is a War Crime. Waterboarding is a War Crime. The CIA has admitted waterboarding detainees. Recently, Vice President Cheney has brazenly admitted authorizing the program that lead to waterboarding, other forms of torture too numerous to list, and ultimately, the deaths by homicide of detainees.

As Major General Antonio Taguba, the Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison has stated:

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

The Washington Post recently summarized the Senate Armed Services Committee Report on detainee treatment thusly:

A bipartisan panel of senators has concluded that former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials bear direct responsibility for the harsh treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and that their decisions led to more serious abuses in Iraq and elsewhere.

We the undersigned citizens demand a full and thorough investigation immediately upon your taking office. This investigation should be pursued no matter where it may lead and no matter what the political implications may be. To this end, we remind you that you work not on behalf of or for the President or the Congress, but for the People of the United States of America and for Justice itself.

The United States is a representative democracy. The actions of our government officials are done in the name of its citizens. War Crimes have been committed in our name. Torture has been done in our name. The only way to clear our name of War Crimes is to repudiate them through the aggressive prosecution of each and every person involved to the full extent of the law through the appointment of a Special Prosecutor.


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Originally posted to buhdydharma on Fri Dec 26, 2008 at 11:36 AM PST.

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