06/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Cheney's Tattered Torture Threads

Some people accept the premise that even if the Iraq war was misguided and mismanaged, the Bush regime was basically motivated to protect Americans. They say the events of 911 were so traumatic, and the terrorists were so crazy, that this justified what was done in our defense. The argument is the same for torture, and any other extreme policy of that era - it was all done to fight those "extremists" who were out to get us. So we shouldn't be too hard on them.


Because now we hear from administration insider Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff for then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, that Vice President Cheney pushed for using torture tactics in 2002, not necessarily to protect Americans from some kind of ticking time bomb attack, but in order to obtain information from an Iraqi prisoner that would link Saddam Hussein's Iraq to Al Qaeda -- information that would facilitate the selling of the pre-emptive war.

As a former Secretary of Defense, Cheney had to know that torture tactics have been historically used by authoritarian regimes to get false confessions. Exactly like the false confession of spying given to Iran by the recently released American journalist, Roxana Saberi, who lied because she was afraid for her life. It's a pretty simple leap to assume that falsity was exactly what Cheney wanted. That's what the tortured Iraqi prisoner, Al-Libi, gave authorities. After nearly a month of torture, including water boarding, he finally made up a story of how Iraq trained Al Qaeda. So off we went to the United Nations with information now known to be false.

But why would Cheney and the Bush regime do this? Why would these guys push so hard to get us into a war in Iraq if they weren't genuinely worried about our safety? Why would they turn themselves into pretzels of illogic for eight years, trying to explain something that never rang true - never made sense?

We need to look deeper into other areas of Vice President Cheney's legendary secret dark side to try and unravel this thread. Remember Cheney's Energy Task Force? The Bush Administration fought and won multiple lawsuits to keep the records of these meetings secret.

Because of the Enron scandal and Kenneth Lay's involvement in the task force, a few documents did come out. Judicial Watch did a great story at the time, in 2003, noting that plans of occupation and exploitation of oil in Iraq predated September 11. They said, "Documents turned over contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts."

Just exactly what the machinations were behind those closed doors is still unknown, but who benefited is pretty obvious. The invasion of Iraq slowed Middle Eastern oil production and drove up prices; creating record profits for oil companies. Maybe they thought that the war would be just a quick geo-economic power move. Clearly it got out of hand.

One of saddest aspects of the whole torture debacle is that it went viral like a YouTube video. The pictures of widespread abuse at Abu Ghraib show us that. The tone was set from the top. Cheney and Bush, the U.S. Justice Department, the CIA, and private interrogators, all created an environment that condoned many forms of torture, including rape. This despicable program was not necessary for our security. It was an illegal, deliberate attempt to distort the real intentions of the war in Iraq. It also made us less safe.

The perpetrators of the torture policy, at the top, need to be investigated, prosecuted, and punished for breaking our laws. As for the oilmen, we should implement anti-trust laws, and force them to invest a big part of their profits from the last eight years in alternative energy. We could have had a lot more affordable choices by now if we'd had a real competitive market instead of a rigged one. The oil companies should also be made to cover the roofs of Baghdad with solar panels and find some decent electricians to get the place up and running again. You know the oil guys deserve it. ... So do the Iraqis. ... And so do we.