They were only following ordersIt’s unlikely that the United States will ever live down the shame of torture during the Bush-Cheney administration. It’s history now, and all the piety and wit of those former U.S. officials responsible for this horrendous chapter cannot wipe out a word of it.
By: Helen Thomas, The Jamestown Sun
WASHINGTON — It’s unlikely that the United States will ever live down the shame of torture during the Bush-Cheney administration.
It’s history now, and all the piety and wit of those former U.S. officials responsible for this horrendous chapter cannot wipe out a word of it.
Mark Danner published in The New York Review of Books excerpts of a leaked report by the International Committee of the Red Cross on CIA interrogation techniques used at secret U.S. “black site” prisons abroad and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The report is based on Red Cross interviews in 2006 with 14 “high-value” detain-ees at Guantanamo as part of the ICRC’s legally recognized duties to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions and to supervise treatment of prisoners of war, The New York Review of Books said.
Red Cross officials interviewed each of the 14 detainees in private. The report was not intended to be released to the public but was to be given in strictest secrecy to officials of the government agency that had been in charge of holding them — the CIA.
The shocking account tells of the sadistic punishment inflicted on prisoners picked up in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under CIA control, they were brutalized. They were beaten, their heads regularly slammed against walls, and they were subjected to constant loud music. They also were deprived of sleep for days, and, of course, there was waterboarding — a torture technique designed to make victims think that they are drowning.
The Red Cross report noted that the detainees told similar stories of their treatment. Since the detainees were kept “in continuous solitary confinement and incommunicado detention ... the striking similarity in their stories, even down to small details, would seem to make fabrication extremely unlikely, if not impossible.
“The ICRC wishes to underscore that the consistency of the detailed allegations provided separately by each of the 14 adds particular weight to the information” they provided.
The Red Cross report concluded: “The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
One wonders whether there were any profiles in courage among the CIA officers who might have protested against these torture crimes. I would like to think so, but none has stepped forward.
Perhaps to salve their own consciences, they may be telling themselves that they “were just following orders” -the defense unsuccessfully used by Nazis on trial at Nuremberg following World War II.
We have yet to learn whether the information extracted at such a cruel price was worth our reputation for decency and compassion — and most of all, adherence to the rule of law.
Both former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledge that they approved the unconscionable methods that have sullied the nation.
Cheney contended last Sunday in a CNN interview that President Barack Obama’s decisions to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and to ban the heinous system of interrogation of suspected terrorists have made the country more vulnerable to another terrorist attack.
Cheney defended the Bush administration’s policies as “absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed.”
Cheney’s role in the Bush administration was obviously huge during his eight years in the White House. He appeared to be the go-to ruler at the start of the Bush administration and set in motion the push for an imperial presidency and an unfettered commander in chief.
But he apparently lost ground with Bush in the last days of the administration when Bush refused to pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a top Cheney aide convicted in connection with the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA officer.
Cheney also was in the forefront of the campaign for tougher action against Iran before the Bush administration stepped down. But either time ran out or Bush did not want to risk another international incident before leaving office.
Apparently in the last administration, loyalty to the president’s policies ranked higher than the nation’s honor in the world.
(Helen Thomas can be reached at 202-263-6400 or at the e-mail address helent@ hearstdc.com.)
(c) 2009 Hearst Newspapers
Distributed by King Features Syndicate