Obama v. Cheney on Torture

Veteran security reporters Jonathan S. Landay and Warren Strobel at McClatchy fact-check former vice president Dick Cheney’s speech defending torture and denouncing plans to close Guantanamo Bay Landay and Strobel catch the vice president in a whole series of falsehoods:

The long and the short of it is that other high US officials doubt the allegation that torture was necessary to fighting al-Qaeda, or necessarily produced good information that could not have been obtained in any other way. McClatchy points out that Ibn al-Shaykh Libi’s confession, produced by torture, actually helped drag the US into a fruitless war in Iraq insofar as he made false allegations that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda in chemical weapons. The US military combed six million captured Baath documents and found the allegation false.

It could also be added that torture almost certainly deepened and lengthened the Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq, which contrary to Cheney’s claims was not mainly led by al-Qaeda.

President Obama’s speech on the same subject, is here. It is an important speech, but problematic. It is framed as an attempt to defend the Constitution from Cheney’s abuses, and as a balancing of transparency against national security. I’m not one of those he accuses of being a transparency fundamentalist. But I find him making too many concessions to the National Security State that are in my view unconstitutional. He maintains he is cutting back the abuses. But it isn’t good enough that one president should identify where he things the US government went too far, and voluntarily cut back. Cutting back from three packs a day to only one could still kill you. And what happens if a different sort of president gets in in 2012 and ramps up the abuses again? By declining to draw a clear and adjudicable line, Obama is unwittingly allowing the Right to lay the groundwork for permanent move to presidential dictatorship. Obama says he doesn’t want to re-litigate the last 8 years. That is frankly disingenuous. The last 8 years were never litigated. And crimes were committed. If they are not addressed, they will become norms, not crimes.
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