U.S. Senate

Senate Study Proves Republicans Wrong on Torture

Last updated on February 8th, 2013 at 09:26 pm

After a three year study, the Senate Intelligence Committee is confirming what many of us already know.  Aside from being un-American, immoral and illegal, the Bush Administration’s torture policy didn’t work. As reported by Reuters:

People familiar with the inquiry said committee investigators, who have been poring over records from the administration of President George W. Bush, believe they do not substantiate claims by some Bush supporters that the harsh interrogations led to counter-terrorism coups.

There are many reasons to oppose the torture policy that Mitt Romney endorsed during the GOP foreign policy debate.  It wasn’t that long ago, that even the right wing recognized that torture is un-American.  It was even possible to say so on Fox News of all places.

Watch here courtesy of the Young Turks:

Evan Wallach, a judge on the circuit court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit,  is also recognized as one of the nation’s greatest authorities on war crimes law.  He made the following observations about the Bush Administration’s torture policy in 2007:

Sometimes, though, the questions we face about detainees and interrogation get more specific. One such set of questions relates to “waterboarding.”

That term is used to describe several interrogation techniques. The victim may be immersed in water, have water forced into the nose and mouth, or have water poured onto material placed over the face so that the liquid is inhaled or swallowed. The media usually characterize the practice as “simulated drowning.” That’s incorrect. To be effective, waterboarding is usually real drowning that simulates death. That is,

the victim experiences the sensations of drowning: struggle, panic, breath-holding, swallowing, vomiting, taking water into the lungs and, eventually, the same feeling of not being able to breathe that one experiences after being punched in the gut. The main difference is that the drowning process is halted. According to those who have studied waterboarding’s effects, it can cause severe psychological trauma, such as panic attacks, for years.

And here is what he said about the legal status of water-boarding within the United States and in the international community:

The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government — whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community — has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

People on the ground, like Matthew Alexander, also pointed to the practical reality that there is a proven better way to get actionable intelligence, and it doesn’t involve resorting to crimes against humanity.

I refused to participate in such practices, and a month later, I extended that prohibition to the team of interrogators I was assigned to lead. I taught the members of my unit a new methodology — one based on building rapport with suspects, showing cultural understanding and using good old-fashioned brainpower to tease out information. I personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and I supervised more than 1,000. The methods my team used are not classified (they’re listed in the unclassified Field Manual), but the way we used them was, I like to think, unique. We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work (something that the Field Manual permits, under the concept of “ruses and trickery”). It worked. Our efforts started a chain of successes that ultimately led to Zarqawi.

Still the Bush policy, known as “enhanced interrogation”, because torture is such an icky word, was defended at the time.  It continues to be justified and if Mitt Romney becomes president, there is a very good chance that it will be resurrected.

The documents reviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee reveal what Bush, and now Romney don’t want to think about.  Their claim that torture works is a lie.  They knew it, or at least the information was available to them.

The Intelligence committee has not issued any official statements about what its inquiry has found or when it expects to wrap up. But committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein has made relatively strong statements about the lack of evidence that enhanced interrogations played any material role in generating information leading to bin Laden’s killing.

Only days after the commando raid in which bin Laden was killed, Feinstein told journalists: “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and, in my view, nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used.”

It’s very possible that when the final report is completed and made public, the GOP will claim that this is a partisan conclusion and therefore cannot be trusted.  Of course, the GOP members of the committee decided against participation.  Whether they decided against participating for partisan reasons, fear of facts or fear of what the facts will reveal, they decided against looking at the facts and forming an opinion based on those facts. That precludes them from questioning the veracity of the report.

Perhaps they will point to Jose Rodriguez’s book “Hard Measures” as “real” proof that torture works.

We made some al-Qaida terrorists with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days,” Rodriguez says in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that will air on Sunday. “I am very secure in what we did and am very confident that what we did saved American lives.

It begs the question if the GOP has real evidence to support their ideological affection for torture why not participate in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study?  Why don’t they point to that evidence as proof that the Bush administration was justified in its decision to sell our values down the river?

The reality is if there was any evidence to support their claims, the Republicans would be very eager to put them on the table for all of us to see.  For that matter, they wouldn’t resort to euphemisms like “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

Image from sunsentinel.com

For more of my posts, check out my blog, Nuts and Dolts

Adalia Woodbury

Former contributor.

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