True confession

Bush confesses to the crime of torture.

There’s another way to read Bush’s justification of the torture of Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: that is, after throwing up. It’s a confession to a crime.

With my italics:

We knew that Zubaydah had more information… And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful. .. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.

It will be impossible after this for Bush to field the Abu Ghraib defence of a “few bad apples”. The torture was decided on, in literally excruciating detail, at the highest levels of the US government, most probably by Bush personally. The point at which the CIA connects with the Department of Justice is the White House. The legal advice may let the underlings off the hook by the Nuremberg defence, though that’s not certain, but by the same token it implicates the Atttorney General, the Director of the CIA, and the President in the conspiracy.

The investigation and prosecution of a rogue Administration will become a huge law-enforcement problem for a decade, and by Republican default, it’s up to the Democrats. They had better start thinking about it now. The perps are, unless they are so sanguine as to believe their own sea-lawyers like Yoo, which would be stupid.

PS1: Bush went into a lot of unverifiable details about valuable intelligence provided by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in order to set up a moral and political defence of his torture. Since Bush lied about one case we can verify, there’s no compelling reason to believe the rest, or the assertion that

Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland.

Supposing we do believe this, the crucial point is not “the program” (detaining al-Qaeda agents somewhere) but the alleged necessity of torture within it – not the balance of advantage, the necessity. Finally, a moral defence of torture is not a legal one; at best it could motivate a decision not to prosecute the crime.

PS2: Bush also defended Guantanamo by citing Belgian members of an OSCE inspection team. The OSCE is IMHO a make-work organization for surplus diplomats, that has broadened its original mandate in conflict resolution (in places like Macedonia) into fields where it has no expertise, like prisons. Professional prison inspectors like these always insist on speaking to detainees; nor do individual team members make off-the-cuff comments to the press. That’s why they weren’t invited.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

2 thoughts on “True confession”

  1. Finally, a moral defence of torture is not a legal one; at best it could motivate a decision not to prosecute the crime.
    I always say, Torture is a crime; a ticking bomb is a mitigating factor at sentencing.

  2. It seems that even stretched to its utmost, the torture methods approved by DOJ and used could only be justified under an "extreme clear and present danger", ie. that investigators already knew a bomb was somewhere in a building that was set to go off within a few minutes and needed to know exactly where the bomb was located. This was not the case here. The US was on a long-term fishing expedition for any and all information they might be able to obtain from those they captured and tortured. And anyways, these methods are horribly unreliable precisely because of their severity. The subject ends up saying whatever he thinks his torturers want to hear him say so as to make the torture stop. Thus, any information or statements gained must then be vetted and corroborated through all other types of information just to weed out what may be true and what is just plain false. These methods are also fairly useless in a highly compartmentalized structure like al Qaeda appears to be, ie. that members are purposefully provided very limited information so as to prevent them from revealing much if … well … tortured.
    Mr. Kleiman's points are all well made and I appreciate his taking the time and energy to do this.

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