Last week it was announced that US Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed a federal prosecutor to conduct a “preliminary review” of about ten cases in which CIA interrogators and/or contractors deviated from the Justice Department legal opinions under the Bush administration, which authorized agency use specific “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs, also known as torture) such as water-boarding.
Almost immediately, former US vice-president Richard “Tricky Dick” Cheney protested loudly on a major right-wing news outlet. He said that it was really President Obama who was after him “for political reasons”.
“Tricky Dick” has good reason to protest any investigation into the use of torture by the US government. To a large extent, he was directly responsible for implementing the program in the CIA for using torture as a means of extracting information from detainees captured in Afghanistan since the US invasion of that country after 9-11. Of course, these detainees were never charged, indicted or convicted, or even allowed legal counsel or any form of due process.
While “Tricky Dick” continues to insist that terror attacks had been prevented because of torture, he has never specified what imminent attacks were actually prevented. But he continues to claim that we cannot have national security without the use of EITs.
This flies in the face of the CIA’s own Inspector General’s report of May 2004, finally released last week in heavily redacted form as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The report concluded that “Measuring the effectiveness of EITs, however, is a more subjective process and not without some concern.”
It has been a well known fact throughout human history that the use of torture does not result in reliable information. People will say and do anything to stop the pain of torture. During the middle ages, for example, thousands of women were burned at the stake for being witches, which they confessed to while being tortured.
Additionally, the USA has historically and repeatedly lectured and sanctioned other nations for their internal violation of human rights and due process. The USA was a major player in the Nuremberg trials of 1945-46 which tried and sentenced NAZI war criminals for committing acts of torture , among other crimes against humanity. Yet now the USA was committing those same acts in the name of national security. And because of the clear hypocrisy of “Tricky Dick’s” “do as I say, not as I do” policies, the USA has lost a huge amount of credibility in the rest of the world.
Perhaps the worst effect of “Tricky Dick’s” so-called counter-terrorism program is that the USA may no longer be taken seriously if it protests an act of torture committed against US citizens and/or soldiers who might be captured overseas. This down side is made worse by “Tricky Dick’s” belief that he and his cohorts can ignore the law in the name of national security. The ultra-extreme right would have us believe that in order to have national security, we have to give up civil and human rights granted to us by the US Constitution, federal and state laws, as well as over 200 years of US Supreme Court decisions defining those civil and human rights.
“Tricky Dick’s” ex-boss, G “W” Bush, could have stopped this dead in its tracks had he wanted to. After all, as President Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here” and he had a sign right on his desk in the White House which said so. Why “W” didn’t stop it is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless, there is certainly enough blame to go around for the decimation of the American image in the eyes of the rest of the world. To his credit, “W” has been largely silent since leave office. But “Tricky Dick” never misses an opportunity to shoot off his mouth on the news programs.
Some folks can’t wait for trials to start, while others believe that President Obama’s stated policy of “not looking backwards” is the way to go, particularly in light of his efforts to pass health reform. The problem with that policy, however, is that it propagates the concept that it’s okay to violate the law if you have a good enough (to you) reason.
That is not what the USA is supposed to be about. This country has signed multiple international treaties and conventions in good faith, not the least of which are the Geneva Conventions, which expressly prohibit the use of torture and inhuman treatment of any kind.
The investigation is long overdue. And if evidence indicates that certain government officials violated the law, regardless of who they are, they should be prosecuted in a criminal court that will guarantee them due process, even though they denied that same due process to their captives.
After all, isn’t that what America stands for?