We Can’t Move Forward By Whitewashing Torture

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Does this mean former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who said the Geneva Convention was "obsolete", may skip charges altogether? Obama's detractors claim this wouldn't be good for national morale; I call it a royal flush.


When President Barack Obama first publically stated he wasn't going to prosecute senior Bush Administration officials for detainee torture back in early January, I pretended to have forgotten how obstinate, grudging and ungrateful these people can be.

Surely they'll just let out a sigh of relief and keep their pinched-lips shut, I thought at the time. Yet in light of such graphic disclosures (and much still-to-be-shown), it seemed Obama was content to continue his inauguration-period Kumbaya; let George and Laura Bush move on.

I overlooked how weak any silence or graciousness may look towards millions of Bush’s supporters who watched their hero flip-the-bird at the flat earth for eight years.

We should have known to what extent the Bush regime could go to torture just by studying the manner in which Jose Padilla was treated.

Says Glenn Greenwald, author of How Would a Patriot Act?: "The case of Jose Padilla is one of the most despicable and outright un-American travesties the US Government has perpetrated in a long time... But there has been no retreat from this behavior. Quite the contrary. The atrocity known as the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is a huge leap forward in elevating the Padilla treatment from the lawless shadows into full-fledged officially-sanctioned and legally-authorized policy of the US Government. The case of Jose Padilla is no longer a sick aberration, but is instead a symbol of the kind of government we have chosen to have."

While I acknowledge Greenwald's great research on Padilla, America didn't choose the Bush Administration. Most of us chose Al Gore; the US Supreme Court chose the Bush government. Which only made the situation even worse.

Greenwald's findings came after almost four years of sensory deprivation while inside a 9x7 cell. For two and a half of those years this American citizen was denied access to a lawyer and contact with his family.

Once again understand that no charges were filed against him. It's not as if there weren't any obvious enemy combatants out there; what about Luis Posada Carilles? Not a "dirty bomber," but worse, a real bomber. This is a guy Bush could have unequivocally pinned an airplane bombing to; could've tortured him without outcry 'till the cows came home. Yet this terrorist roamed free for quite some time, with America leaving it only up to foreign courts to hunt down, simply because he was anti-Fidel Castro.

The purpose as described by attorney David Markus in his blog was "in an effort to gain Mr. Padilla's dependency and trust, he was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention... it is worth noting that throughout his captivity, none of the restrictive and inhumane conditions visited upon Mr. Padilla were brought on by his behavior or any actions on his part. There were no incidents of Mr. Padilla violating any regulations of the naval brig or taking any aggressive action towards any of his captors."

Then we got news of the CIA destroying some interrogation tapes; twelve out of 92 in all. Much of this had to do with the secret simulated drowning.

President Obama signed an order prohibiting the agency from using these procedures or as they called it "enhanced interrogation techniques" during his first week in office. In late April, less than two weeks after President Obama released Bush Administration torture memos that approved the harsh tactics, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a 232-page report denouncing the abuse that began rolling in full swing two weeks after 9/11 and the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and Afghanistan.

A month later came news that interrogations undergone by prisoners such as Padilla weren't the brainchild of the military. Author Alfred McCoy who was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer points to the world's most infamous intelligence agency: "The CIA became involved in torture through a massive mind-control effort with psychological warfare and secret research into human consciousness that reached the cost of a billion dollars annually-veritable Manhattan Project of the Mind."

McCoy's book "A question of Torture: From 1950 to 1962" reveals a budget set aside by the US Government; a "black budget" that was never shut down and gained new life after the events of 9/11/01.

Reportedly these torture methods weren't physical. Of course abuse doesn’t have to be physical at all and those of the mental, psychological and emotional can have more damaging effects than actual body contact.

McCoy goes on to state that these are "all designed with a perverse stagecraft to evoke an aura of fear... the psychological component of torture becomes a kind of a total theater. A constructed unreality of lies and inversion, in a plot that ends inexorably with the victim's self-betrayal and destruction."

This overview came before Padilla's trial, as in the case of most interrogations the US outwardly hopes to gain more leads and names for more arrests. Evidently no such names came forth from Mr. Padilla after year of enduring torture; unlike Zubaydah who was said to have talked after his interrogation. Needless to say, he had more to reveal than Padilla.

In other words he either has an extraordinarily strong will, or he simply knew no one or nothing to reveal.

Why Bush had the military push on for so long seems to be a betrayal of something deeper. I'm convinced Bush knew very well Padilla was essentially not a terrorist, but at worst only a former member of a street gang.

This makes for an interesting statement about the young former-Chicago resident's character; It's well known you can get most street thugs to sing any song you want ghetto-snitch-rule not withstanding. Especially through the sophisticated torture tactics Padilla experienced.

Most gang-bangers are only tough within the combined safety of their numbers. The underlining suspicion was the Bush Administration wanted us to believe the same thing regarding Padilla that he wanted the world to believe about his reasons for invading Iraq; to manufacture concrete evidence to present to the world that Iraq was directly connected to 9/11.

Any disclosure by Padilla, whether true or not would have, at least in his mind, given him much credibility in his scorched-earth campaign.

The same day the SASC report was released, the AP reported that Obama was contemplating an interrogation of his own against the Bush Administration, adding the US lost "our moral bearing." The President also said he could support a Congressional probe as long as it was bipartisan.

If President Obama does prosecute, it would likely be in-no-small-part due to the recent antics of his distant cousin and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Talk about family drama, Cheney has been making appearances on mostly conservative-friendly talk shows spitting out some revisionist history about his former Administration's need to torture.

It's not as if Obama wasn't always wary of Cheney; he said of his former number two, in January: "Vice President Cheney, I think, continues to defend what he calls extraordinary measures or procedures when it comes to interrogations and from my view water boarding is torture."

Obama may also be clearing the way to backtrack on his promise of over 120 days earlier not to have the Bush bunch face legal consequences. Recently he vowed not to prosecute CIA employees; his Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel said he wouldn't seek indictment of Bush Administration lawyers. Who then does that leave Obama to mess with? The same people trying to vilify him after he told the world he would cut Bush and his gang-bangers; Cheney, Rove, Condi, and Rumsfeld a break.

Does this mean former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who said the Geneva Convention was "obsolete", may skip charges altogether? Obama's detractors claim this wouldn't be good for national morale; I call it a royal flush.

It probably doesn't help the former Bush Administration's case that we now know that the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Muhammad was reportedly water-boarded a whopping 183 times back in March of '03 alone and that the alleged al-Qaeda Chief of Logistics Abu Zubaydah 83 times back in 8/02.

What many don't seem to get is, it's not just the torture alone that's the issue, it's the Bush policy that precedes and led up to it that make it necessary to shut down and seek indictment. That the Military Commissions Act may have swept up some actual planners of 9/11 doesn't justify the methods. Two towers in New York don't make a right; the right to randomly choose anyone as an enemy. We learned this much from... and Jose Padilla.

Stevenson is a syndicated columnist. His articles also appear on his blog the Buffalo Bullet. www.buffalobullet.blogspot.com contact him at pointblankdta@yahoo.com  

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