Thursday, May 14, 2009

Our tortured justification for war

Not only does it seem that Cheney directed torture to "prove" an Iraq-Qaeda link as justification for the 2003 war ... it now seems that he was still eager to use torture after the occupation, in order to retroactively justify the war.
At the end of April 2003, not long after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces captured an Iraqi who Bush White House officials suspected might provide information of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi was the head of the M-14 section of Mukhabarat, one of Saddam’s secret police organizations. His responsibilities included chemical weapons and contacts with terrorist groups. * * *

[WMD inspector Charles] Duelfer says he heard from “some in Washington at very senior levels (not in the CIA),” who thought Khudayr’s interrogation had been “too gentle” and suggested another route, one that they believed has proven effective elsewhere. “They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding, should be used,” Duelfer writes. “The executive authorities addressing those measures made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism cases, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related. The debriefings were just debriefings, even for this creature.”

Duelfer will not disclose who in Washington had proposed the use of waterboarding, saying only: “The language I can use is what has been cleared.” In fact, two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard came from the Office of Vice President Cheney. Cheney, of course, has vehemently defended waterboarding and other harsh techniques, insisting they elicited valuable intelligence and saved lives. He has also asked that several memoranda be declassified to prove his case. * * *

Without admitting where the suggestion came from, Duelfer revealed that he considered it reprehensible and understood the rationale as political--and ultimately counterproductive to the overall mission of the Iraq Survey Group, which was assigned the mission of finding Saddam Hussein’s WMD after the invasion.
Emptywheel notes the story and cautions against uncritical reading of another portion, implying that the 9/11 Commission relied heavily on torture-obtained intel from KSM. But she passes over the foregoing part.

Meanwhile, Colin Powell's ex-aide Col. Wilkerson claims that
what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.
If any of this is true, it seems astonishing that Cheney would not shut his mouth, rather than provoke such revelations and investigations. But perhaps he thinks that playing the partisanship card is the only way to keep an investigation from happening.

Increasingly, Cheney reminds me of this:
This officer in Intelligence, who had open access to Hitler, is reported to have given the Führer once again an urgent account of the atrocities and consequences of such methods, whereupon the Führer is said to have replied, "You're getting soft, sir! I have to do it, because after me no one else will!"
(Quoted in Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution, at 85.)


  1. The Fuhrer may have understood Game Theory intuitively. Or he read Shakespeare's Henry V. Razor

  2. The latter seems much more likely, though I am half persuaded by Adam Tooze's The Wages of Destruction that Hitler had sound, albeit desperate, economic motives for going to war in 1939, invading Russia in 1941, and declaring war on the U.S., which would give him a lot more credit for game-theoretical thinking than the usual WW2 survey would suggest he deserves.