Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Is Truth?

There's an old chestnut about a man who carried a large rock around with him wherever he went. When asked why, he stated that the rock kept the tigers away. "And it works! You see any tigers?"

I was reminded of that joke these past few weeks as the Bush-Cheney revisionists continue to insist that torture works. It kept the terrorists away the past seven years. Like the man with the large rock, however, these miscreants have been silent on any of the details supporting that assertion. Tim Rutten's latest column also noticed the smug reticence of those who justified the use of torture. For that reason, Mr. Rutten believes that Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-VT) suggestion of a "Truth Commission" should be fully implemented.

A truth commission is particularly important because of the public rhetoric of former Bush administration officials -- the very ones who pushed so hard behind closed doors for permission to torture and who have argued so strenuously that the legal memos ought to remain secret.

These officials, foremost among them former Vice President Dick Cheney, have not simply argued that releasing the memos and renouncing the kind of interrogation they sanctioned is bad national security policy or legally mistaken. Instead, they've gone well beyond that and actually insisted that torture "worked."

In at least two interviews since leaving office, Cheney has made precisely that case. "If it hadn't been for what we did -- with respect to the ... enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees -- then we would have been attacked again," he told interviewers in February. Whenever he's been pressed for details on which of the tortured prisoners provided such critical details or which planned attacks may have been foiled, he has declined to give useful answers.

Rutten argues that we need to know whether in fact "enhanced interrogation techniques" really did work. We need to know specifically what planned attacks were disrupted and which detainees actually gave up that information. My guess at this point is that Cheney and the other malefactors are blowing smoke. There were no successes, merely broken men telling their captors whatever they wanted to hear.

If I'm wrong, however, and some loonies were stopped from piloting a plane into the Los Angeles Federal Building, that should not be the end of the story. That would still not justify the use of torture. 9/11 did not happen because we were too weak to use "enhanced interrogation techniques". It happened because a cocky president and his camp followers were too busy kicking back on August 6, 2001 to take seriously a briefing from the CIA about an imminent attack. It happened because the new Republican administration in their utter contempt for the Clinton administration refused to listen to the warnings about Al Qaeda which contained the documentation that an attack was being planned. And it happened because our intelligence services were hamstrung to the point that they could not share information in real time.

There are other, better, more effective ways to gather intelligence, ways which have been successful and continue to be successful. Torture should never be considered a useful arrow in our quiver.

Not ever.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

The "Truth" is that NO Bushevik is going to be prosecuted for ANY act undertaken in the GWOT.


Unpragmatically Imprudent.


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