Rebuking Cheney's Torture Propaganda in 7 Easy Steps
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Well, those documents were released last week. Cheney, clearly knowing that many “journalists” apparently wouldn’t bother reading them, was all over the media claiming the documents absolve him and that torture worked. The problem is, they showed nothing of the sort and actually—upon a close read—indicate that techniques that did not involve torture produced better results. Some portions “actually suggest the opposite of Cheney’s contention: that non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most important information the documents cite in defending the value of the CIA’s interrogations,” as Spencer Ackerman observed in the Washington Independent.
Let’s remember: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was a blowhard braggart long before he was taken prisoner by the US in March 2003, as Jane Mayer has pointed out. Al Jazeera did not need to waterboard him or put a drill to his head or threaten to rape his wife before he bragged about being the mastermind of 9/11 on the network before being captured. “[T]here’s no evidence that I see in [the declassified documents] that these things were necessary,” observed Mayer. “I spoke to someone at the CIA who was an adviser to them who conceded to me that ‘We could have gotten the same information from tea and crumpets.’”
Also, Mohammed told the International Committee of the Red Cross that he gave misinformation to US interrogators as well. “During the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop,” Mohammed told the ICRC. “I later told the interrogators that their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I’m sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order tomake the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot of their time and led to several false red-alerts being placed in the US.” This raises an unanswerable question: Who knows how many US lives were put at risk because of bad intelligence obtained from torture?
One of the few people that had actually seen the documents to which Cheney was referring before they were released and had the courage to speak up was Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. In May, he said: “I am a member of the Intelligence Committee, and I can tell you that nothing I have seen, including the two documents to which [Cheney] has repeatedly referred, indicates that the torture techniques authorized by the last administration were necessary or that they were the best way to get information out of detainees.” Now that the public has had access to these documents, it is clear, as Feingold said months ago, that Cheney was “misleading the American people.” And, with the cooperation of a lazy and pliant media, Cheney continues to run his own televised miseducation camp. And let’s be honest: It ain’t just Fox News. The Washington Post now appears to be a private little Pravda for Cheney and his tiny group of minions formerly employed by the CIA. “The Post management, it seems, is determined to return to its past practice of acting as stenographers for the CIA’s PR machine,” McGovern, the former CIA analyst, recently wrote.
The role that the media should actually play in all of this was summed up well by Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who rightly points out that the tactics were not limited to waterboarding, but included “threats of rape, of killing children, of blowing cigar smoke into detainee’s faces until they retch, in addition to the power drills and mock executions:”
“We’ve long said that if you televise an execution that will be the end of public support for the death penalty. In a similar way, one hopes that the more the reality of torture is put before the American public, the less support there will be for it. When the issue is presented — as in the earliest leaked torture memos — as a legal abstraction, it’s easier for the public to rationalize the idea that nothing wrong is taking place.”