Monday, April 27, 2009

Aren't we suppose to be the good guys?

I was on a radio show talking about torture in the course of discussing the weeks news. A guest called in. Conservative, Bob, the host said.
Apparently they knew him.
He summed up the conservative point of view on the entire torture scandal with the official position from Bizzaro world.
Where is it written down that torture is illegal? He asked. Because if it was, his reasoning went, then Dick Cheney would be in jail by now.
Reasonable men can agree to disagree. But what do you do when faced with this?
All I had to do was Google, laws on torture.
The geneva conventions are pretty clear on what torture is. This is only the first section of many many that spell it out in detail:

and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
Part I
Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

This seems pretty clear to me. Torture is illegal.
Shortly after 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on a Sunday news show and told the American people that we would deal with our enemies by working on the "dark side."
We now know what he meant.
What the Bush administration did was not only illegal, but profoundly stupid for reasons that will become clear soon.

To find some kind of a blue print for how to torture, the White House turned to a military program ironically designed to train our servicemen how to cope with torture if they were ever captured. Not just captured, but captured by countries who didn't sign the Geneva Conventions. That means, countries that still use such practices as water boarding.
They reverse engineered programs and techniques to help withstand torture into a seriously flawed program designed to torture.

The name of the program is SERE; Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.
During the Korean War, the Communist Chinese used it on P.O.W.'s to get false confessions for propaganda purposes.
A lot of research has been done on torture. Turns out, when people are being subjected to extreme pain, they will say what they think the interrogator wants to hear to make it stop.
This is the method they picked. Its bad enough that it was morally repugnant and against the law, but they chose a technique known for false confessions.
The White House was not only cruel, but stupid as well.

The SERE program's chief psychologist, Colonel Morgan Banks, issued guidance in early 2003 for the "behavioral science consultants" who helped to devise Guantánamo's interrogation strategy although he has emphatically denied that he had advocated the use of counter-resistance techniques used by SERE instructors to break down detainees. However, records show he was in Iraq as a consultant.
All of this is bad. Today, it got worse. Under oath, people are now coming out on the record to tell us that torture was being used on detainees to create a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.

If you think torture is the best way to capture terrorists and get intelligence you are wrong. Instead of pointing out studies I offer this fact as evidence. After the first attack on the World Trade Center, the Government treated it like a crime scene. Evidence was collected, leads followed and eventually with skilled interrogators and patient research, the people who planed it were found, tried and are now in jail.
No one was tortured to solve this. No country was invaded to solve this. No bombs were dropped on innocents civilians by mistake. No secret prisons were set up outside America to get a conviction. New law didn't need to be hastily written to give legal cover to unethical acts to get the information required to get convictions.
The White House made a clear and informed choice to use ineffective brutal methods that are defined as war crimes.
Aren't we suppose to be the good guys?