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Barack Obama's presidency

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George W. Bush's presidency since 2007

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George W. Bush's presidency from 2005-06

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Tortured Logic, Tortured Results

By William Loren Katz
May 14, 2009

Editors Note: Much of the U.S. mainstream media continues to insist that there must be a debate about the efficacy of torture, whether – as distasteful as it is – torture saved American lives.

The evidence, however, is to the contrary, now clear that torture did what it has always done, extracted false confessions, in this case the proof that George W. Bush wanted to justify invading Iraq, as historian William Loren Katz notes in this guest essay:

Each day the evidence piles up - highlighted by the unconvincing (and self-incriminating) rants of Dick Cheney.

Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said, "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." [Washington Note, May 13, 2009]

Journalist Paul Krugman said of the mounting evidence: "Let's say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

"There's a word for this: it's evil." [Paul Krugman Blog, April 22, 2009]

Is there something more painful for Americans than hearing that illegal CIA methods caused the deaths of dozens upon dozens of detainees, inflicted pain on hundreds of others, and that this brutality that had nothing to do with national security?

Yes -- learning it was done to validate one of the leading lies that sent us to war. First British Intelligence's “Downing Street Memo” to Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed, “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the [Bush] policy.”

Now Sen. Carl Levin's 263-page Armed Services Committee report (approved by pro-Iraq War Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman) fills in more blanks. Levin says our top political officials were “driven” to install this torture program.

“They'd say it was to get more information. But they were desperate to find a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq,” Levin told columnist Frank Rich. [New York Times, April 26, 2009]

Sure, al-Qaeda glorifies martyrdom and plays by no known rules. But our authorizing torture and accepting its lies is about us. It is about Americans who went along with “kick some ass,” “bring 'em on,” and “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Under orders from top officials our CIA water boarded one man 183 times and another 83 [hardly proof that it works!]. It sent mentally ill Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi to a foreign prison where he was tortured and locked in a small box for 17 hours until he expanded on his earlier coerced claims of a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

By 2004, al-Libi had recanted his statement and the CIA had acknowledged that it was false. But not before Secretary of State Colin Powell in February 2003 used his words -- “a senior terrorist operative” divulged “how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda” -- to justify the Iraq invasion to the UN Security Council and the world.

The recently released “torture memos” providing legal cover for "harsh interrogations" were written during al-Libi’s his ordeal. [This month, Libi died suddenly in his Libyan prison "an apparent suicide.”]

First, we have to admit that torture worked (albeit not in the way that Dick Cheney asserts). It produced a narrative used to frighten Americans and justify a war of aggression that President Bush wanted to wage.

It also worked in other ways. It recruited untold numbers into the ranks of al-Qaeda, made a mockery of U.S. claims to moral leadership, and now places U.S. soldiers and civilians in danger.

The program's “bad apples” were not the few U.S. jailers who have served prison time for the Abu Ghraib abuses, but our top leaders. They’re the ones who discussed, issued or signed off on illegal orders and ignored dissenting lawyers.

Waterboarding is torture, a crime that violates international and U.S. laws. Crimes are more than mistakes. Americans who violate traffic laws face the wheels of justice. What about those who violate human rights?

William Loren Katz is the author of 40 U.S. history books, has been affiliated with New York University since 1973, and his Web site is: .

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