16 December 2008

War Criminal Watch: Cheney continues to condone torture

I didn't see the entire Cheney interview with Jonathan Karl of ABC news, but here's a telling excerpt:
KARL: And on KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammad], one of those tactics, of course, widely reported, was waterboarding. And that seems to be a tactic we no longer use. Even that you think was appropriate?
Waterboarding, everywhere and always in modern times, except in Bush-era America, has been and is universally recognized by civilized nations as illegal torture. Even Bush ordered it ceased in 2007.

From the blog War Crimes, discussing the same interview:

When asked about the legality of harsh interrogation tactics conducted by CIA officers, and others, Cheney maintained water-boarding was not categorically defined as torture.

“I think those who allege that we’ve been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program, simply don’t know what they’re talking about,” the vice president said.

In the same interview, Cheney unequivocally acknowledged having approved this treatment, specifically. What more do you need to know? I think history's conclusion will be inescapable: our vice-president is a war criminal, and if we didn't already have enough evidence, we now have his direct admissions to prove it.

To my mind, it's long past time to stop coddling and deferring to people who by their own admission have committed acts that can only be described by reasonable people as war crimes. Other political leaders should openly condemn these acts, and shun this despicable man overtly, until such time as an appropriate tribunal can investigate and prosecute him.

As for the notion that important information was gained through torture, this is just plain nonsense. Every responsible interrogator, in the U.S. military and outside of it, will say that coercive interrogation techniques do not work. They yield almost entirely incorrect and useless information (as Jane Mayer documents in The Dark Side with specific reference to KSM). Moreover, the use of these techniques reduces the ability of interrogators to obtain useful information, including from other prisoners as the reputation of the U.S. for torturing detainees spreads among the populations from which the detainees come. Of course, the moral standing of the United States has also been damaged so badly that it will take a very, very long time to repair, thanks to Mr. Cheney and his cohorts who authorized and condoned torture.

Another detriment to the torture of people like KSM in particular is that, once we finally abandon the unconstitutional and illegal detention of detainees without trial, or trial of them in kangaroo courts, in places like Guantánamo, the fact that these individuals were tortured will make it virtually impossible to convict them of their actual crimes in legitimate courts. This unholy mess is directly attributable to the banal evil and stupidity of people like Addington and Cheney.

In reality, when the law has been followed in the past, as in the Ramzi Yousef case, it has proven relatively straightforward to bring successful prosecutions of terrorists in the legitimate criminal justice system. But once the evidence is tainted by torture, it will be all but impossible.

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