In a Washington Post story June 3 “Cheney Led Briefings of Lawmakers to Defend Interrogation Tecniques” by Paul Kane and Joby Warrick, Dick Cheney was revealed as the passionate briefer of Democrats and Republicans on behalf of torture for the CIA. The agency had kept Cheney’s name out of its releases about the briefings. As Senator Lindsey Graham, one time opponent with John McCain of torture, and now, like McCain, a Republican complicitor with it, put it, “[The Vice President’s] office was ground zero’ for torture.
All of the “principals” in the Bush administration, with the possible exception of Colin Powell who nonetheless did not stop them, are war criminals. But, Cheney and Addington who when criminality was mentioned by others, would take a Constitution out of his pocket, wave it in his hand, and repeat as a mantra to silence them “I have all the authority I need” and of course Scooter Libby, the student of Wolfowitz at Yale and Straussian aficianado, are the most culpable (one might add: Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Tenet as well, not to mention Bush himself). The rule of law and America’s role as a civilized nation among others cannot be restored without criminal proceedings against them. The rubble of the World Trade Center was ground zero for 9/11. The American gulag of torture prisons, extraordinary renditions, and smiling lies was ground zero for the Bush administration.
Nothing about Cheney’s move to torture had to do with gathering intelligence. As General Ricardo Sanchez said last week, no actionable intelligence in Iraq came from torture. Last week, General Petraeus also opposed torture as harming America on Fox News. Cheney did not “go to the dark side” and initiate these procedures even to procure information pertaining to Al-Qaida. Instead, he had Khalid Shaikh Mohammed waterboarded 183 times in a month to try to squeeze out of him false information about Saddam Hussein’s ostensible ties to Al-Qaida. See “What the Torturer Knew” here. Obama’s attempt to “move on” from torture by preventing legal proceedings is a terrible mistake. There is, nonetheless, some punishment by ordinary citizens. Addington and Alberto Gonzalez cannot get jobs. Yoo flees Berkeley because everyone looks at him. Nonetheless, such crimes cannot be prevented from recurring in the next Democratic or Republican administration – remember past and possibly future Republican candidate Romney wanted to double the size of Guantanamo - unless the principals face trial. .
For my debate with Republican state senator Shawn Mitchell about whether Condi Rice is a war criminal and international and American laws against torture, see here and here.