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Red Herrings

May 17th, 2009

It’s amazing how the right-wing establishment can still control and steer the “Liberal Media™” so adroitly. Despite more and more alarming revelations coming out about Cheney, Bush, and illegal torture, the media still seems more interested on whether or not waterboarding was mentioned in a CIA briefing to Nancy Pelosi years back–as if that somehow is just as compelling as the executive branch violating U.S. law and principle in a horrific manner.

In 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell asked his chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, to look into the Abu Ghraib scandal. After years of digging, Wilkerson, a retired Army Colonel and a Republican, has uncovered some alarming facts, the most jarring of which is that Cheney ordered torture not to protect the country, but rather to further a political cause. Cheney ordered the torture of an al Qaeda operative in order to manufacture some kind of link between al Qaeda and Iraq.

The usual justification of torture is to save lives and protect the country. The favorite scenario is the “ticking time bomb” where a terror suspect has information which could be used to stop an imminent attack, and torture is the only way to get that information. But the torture of al-Libi was not done for any purpose even resembling that. According to Wilkerson:

…what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002–well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion–its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee “was compliant” (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa’ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, “revealed” such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just “committed suicide” in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi….)

What we have here is a compelling case that the vice president of the United States illegally ordered torture to fabricate evidence that would help promote a costly, disastrous, and just-as-illegal war that has led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and has devastated our economy and our standing in the world.

And yet the media seems intent on focusing instead on the charge that Nancy Pelosi was briefed by the CIA in September of 2002 on the waterboarding of suspects when she claimed that she had not been. This news is insignificant for many reasons. First of all, it changes nothing in terms of the fact that officials in the Bush administration ordered the torture illegally for political purposes. Second, even if she had been so briefed, it would have meant little as Pelosi was not authorized to say or really do anything regarding what she was briefed on. And third, the claims appear to be wrong–inaccurate at best, politically-motivated lies at worst.

And yet, a Google News search on “Cheney Wilkerson torture” brings up only 66 hits, while “Pelosi briefed CIA torture” produces 3,752 hits–more than 50 times the coverage.

How, exactly, can that be justified by any reasonable standard?

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