By Juan Cole | —
Outgoing House Intelligence Committee head Mike Rogers (R-MI) was on Candy Crowley’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, speaking against releasing any details concerning
CIA use of torture in the period after the September 11 attacks.
The Senate report is due out this week and is already the object of a Karl Rove style disinformation campaign by former President George W. Bush and others. The report apparently alleges that there were black torture cells inside the Central Intelligence Agency of which Bush and other high officials were kept ignorant. They are attacking this report on this relatively minor issue (whether or not the relevant CIA units told their superiors everything) as a way of taking the focus off the torture assembly line run by the United States of America for a while. They may also be running interference for Dick Cheney, who may well have ordered the torture and in a just system would be in jail for that and numerous other crimes.
Rogers has never shown the slightest interest in upholding the US constitution or in upholding the rights of those falsely arrested or otherwise wronged by the Federal government. He is now turning his television notoriety as a politician into a career in talk radio, competing with Rush Limbaugh.
When Crowley asked him about the report, he replied that “foreign governments” had warned the US that its release would cause violence.
Please note that when Hosni Mubarak, then president of Egypt, warned Rogers in 2002 that invading Iraq would “create a thousand Bin Ladens,” Rogers did not evince the slightest interest in avoiding a massive violent reaction to that policy. So apparently he feels that there are times when it is worth it to risk violent reactions overseas, i.e. when concerns the illegal invasion and occupation of another country (from which perhaps people in Rogers’ circle or campaign contributors benefited?).
Since Rogers’s Iraq War has already stirred up most people in the Middle East against the US, so that the main guerrilla movement that grew up to oppose Rogers’ policies, ISIL, is routinely beheading Americans, that cow is rather out of the barn.
Rogers goes on to compare the Senate report on CIA torture to the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006, suggesting it holds similar potential for provoking violence. (Rogers is going to give Limbaugh a run for his money!) I think we may just dismiss this comparison as silly. The torture report will embarrass the US intelligence services, not insult Muslims’ sacred figures.
Rogers then takes another tack. “What good,” he asks, “will come of this report?” He says there was a Department of Justice investigation (is that like the grand juries in New York and Ferguson? Who exactly was indicted?)
He then says that the torture program was ceased while Bush was still president, and that Congress has taken action to stop torture. Then he says President Obama issued an executive order halting it.
But why did Obama have to stop something that wasn’t going on?
Again, this line of argument is what magicians call misdirection. That the torture at some point stopped does not relieve the government of accountability for it before the people. Laws were broken, despite what lying liars like John Yoo were happy to tell the Bush administration.
The 8th Amendment to the US constitution (yes, it is as important as if not way more important than the 2nd) specifies that no cruel or unusual punishment shall be inflicted on prisoners held by the Federal government. Repeatedly waterboarding someone, making them think they are drowning, is both cruel and unusual. Waterboarding is torture according to the Convention against Torture, i.e. in international law. A form of it was practiced by the Roman Inquisition and during WW II by Imperial Japan (which the US rather minded at the time). The mealy-mouth fascists who opine that combatants out of uniform may be tortured in US law are just making stuff up. Those who deny that waterboarding is torture are just engaging in a form of lying. Nor does waterboarding appear to be the only torture technique resorted to. As for defenders of torture, they should be careful. One conclusion of the Nuremberg trials is that you can be tried for advocating war crimes.
Rogers in the end asks what good will come of our knowing the truth. All the actions he says were taken, however, were taken by a narrow circle of high officials. We don’t even know whether all the people’s representatives on the Hill have been allowed into the charmed circle of torture cognoscenti. The people rule in a democracy, and the people have been neither informed nor involved. Moreover, in a democracy, officials are held accountable for crimes committed while in office.
Finally, while it is nice of Obama to issue an executive order, his executive order can be overruled by the next president, and the next chair of the intelligence committee might believe in torture (who knows, maybe this one does). Only by having the graphic details of what was done become public can we hope to have a more permanent legislative and judicial reform.
I am not antipathetic to the intelligence officials who faced the problem of destroying al-Qaeda after the September 11 attacks. In fact, I flew off to Washington through much of the zeroes to give talks to US government personnel of a whole range of agencies on how to fight al-Qaeda, and feel solidarity with those who did their best to understand and combat the monsters.
But I categorically deny that any crucial information was derived from torture. And I point out that a crucial bit of disinformation was arrived at that way– Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi under repeated waterboarding told the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda in the use of chemical weapons at Salman Pak. That completely false and indeed ridiculous allegation, taken seriously by Condi Rice, Dick Cheney and W., was an impetus or at least a pretext for a disastrous war. This disastrous intelligence failure derived from the very torture that Mike Rogers doesn’t want us mere plebes to know about.
We need to know about it. Who knows, maybe future voters will even vote for people who stand for the Constitution and a rule of law rather than for a national security Nomenklatura (the old Soviet-style closed elite of apparatchiks) invested in using the techniques of our dictatorial enemies instead of those of a democracy.