I never thought I'd ever lead off a column by quoting Jesse Ventura. Not because I don't respect him. I do. Hell, he was in Predator! But rather, I never really had a specific reason to quote him. Until today.
The following is perhaps the best elevator pitch against the Bush administration's criminal torture policy, and it cuts the heart of exactly why torture was employed:
"You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."
For several weeks now, I've been attempting to unravel the answers to a pair of important "why?" questions, and Jesse's quote helped to crystallize some possible answers. Why did the Bush administration authorize torture when other methods were more successful? And why is Dick Cheney so desperate to exonerate himself and to skew the debate with trivialities?
The second question first.
I don't know if it's even possible for a vampiric supervillain like Cheney to experience the human emotion known commonly as desperation, but I tend to question the motives and stability of anyone who, as part of his public defense against a possible criminal investigation, shoves his daughter into the ring to absorb some of the punches intended for his own translucent-fleshed cheek. This was a guy who, when questioned about his other daughter's homosexuality, made it perfectly clear that his family was off limits. And now he's enlisted Liz Cheney as a surrogate in a bit of parental psychosis not seen since the contents of Cody and Cassidy's poopy diapers became unofficial sidekicks on Regis.
That's not to suggest Liz is doing this against her will or that she can't hold her own. She was clearly blessed with daddy's Freon chromosome.
Personally, however, I grapple with the very idea of herein mentioning that I have a daughter. It's impossible to even fathom the notion of asking her to somehow go forth and publicly defend my work. And if she were to volunteer for such an effort, I would physically block her. You know, lay down in the path of her car and the like. Yet here's Dick Cheney employing his daughter, who, until now, we never even really heard from, to defend his decision to authorize the domestically and internationally illegal act of torture.
What motivates a man to exploit his daughter like this -- and in the context of an issue possessing such serious consequences?
I believe it's the desperation of a crook who's under significant strain and duress. And as information related to his authorization of torture trickles out, the reason for his desperation becomes increasingly evident.
This isn't just about torture or a tangential debate about ticking nukes or "keeping us safe."
It's apparent that torture was authorized for the purpose of fabricating a case for invading Iraq.
According to multiple accounts and experts, the efficacy of torture is limited to ascertaining what the torturer wants to hear -- rather than information that's actually true. In other words, if Jesse Ventura tortured Dick Cheney with The Waterboard, he could very likely force Cheney to confess to the Sharon Tate murders even though, obviously, Cheney didn't have anything to do with them.
The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.
On Monday, the body of terror suspect Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was found in his Libyan cell following what appeared to be a suicide. Andrew Sullivan, who has been tracking the relationship between torture and Iraq for some time now, wrote:
...Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was first captured by the US and tortured by CIA surrogates in an Egyptian cell. Apparently, they beat him and put him in a coffin for 17 hours as a mock-burial. To end the severe mental and physical suffering, he confessed that Saddam had trained al Qaeda terrorists in deploying WMDs. This evidence was then cited by Colin Powell as part of the rationale for going to war in Iraq.
We still don't know if they coerced al-Libi to confess to the Sharon Tate murders. But we do know that the torture of Abu Zubaydah began only after CIA operatives ascertained this false information about Iraqi WMD from al-Libi. (On Wednesday, former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan told Congress that he was able to get actionable intelligence from Abu Zubaydah within about an hour by employing legal interrogation techniques.)
For the record, here's what then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said about al-Libi in his now infamous speech at the UN:
I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to al Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story. I will relate it to you now as he, himself, described it.
And, as we're all aware, that UN speech outlined the administration's entire case for connecting Iraq, al-Qaeda and WMD, and thus the case for war. We now know that one of the chief conclusions in the speech was actually formed from the tortured confessions of a man, al-Libi, who was flogged, buried alive, then forced to confirm the administration's mushroom cloud fantasy. (By the way, I'd like to hear from the cable news and talk radio sadists about whether or not the so-called interrogation techniques used on al-Libi were torture or not. I doubt Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh would submit to being beaten and stuffed in a coffin for 17 hours. Charity or not.)
Sadly, the complexities and parameters of torture appear to be open for debate these days. But using torture as a means to falsify evidence for war is a far more damning and despicable can of worms. So it stands to reason that Cheney would roll out whatever ammunition he has in order to obfuscate and sidetrack the issue. Including the use of his daughter as a spokesperson. This way, we're all wrapped up in debating whether waterboarding is actually torture, or whether the Bushies kept us safe (they didn't), or, in the case of the cable news talkers, whether or not the Cheney family "closed the deal" with their various TV performances. It's all horseshit to prevent us from seriously examining the Bush administration's motives for deliberately breaking the law and selling-out our American values. And the evidence is pointing to a motive for war.
If we eliminate the idea that torture works; if we take seriously the fact that the terror suspects who were tortured had previously revealed valuable information without being tortured; if we factor in the reality that these techniques were invented in order to gather intentionally false confessions; and if we look at the evidence showing that detainees were tortured so they would specifically connect Iraq and al-Qaeda, we're left with no conclusion other than this. Or sadism as sport.
No wonder Dick Cheney is so frantic.
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