Dick Cheny: war criminal

The New Yorker's Jane Mayer has a new book out this week on Bush's ill-conceived War on Terror– The Dark Side.  I've read a number of reviews and caught a great interview with Mayer on Fresh Air.  For those of us who've been paying attention these past few years, there's not a lot of new information, but clearly Mayer puts it all together in a fairly amazing indictment of the current administration.  At the center of the all the most immoral and most wrong-headed decisions sit Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington.  Not that anything will ever come of it, but actually, the truth is that by virtually all agreed upon international standards, Dick Cheney is a war criminal.  Cheney and Addington were clearly responsible for torture policies that undoubtedly violated the Geneva conventions and U.S. Law.  Mayer points out that they thought they were doing their best to protect the country, but what is also amazing is just how dumb they were about it.  The torture methods that they turned to were used by the North Koreans to elicit false confessions from captured Americans.  Basically, they engineered a policy they knew was quite successful at gathering false confessions and went with it.  Amazing.

Over at Salon, Louis Bayard has a nice review:

The very first Sunday after the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick
Cheney descended like a cloud on “Meet the Press” to outline the Bush
administration's response. “We'll have to work sort of the dark side,
if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence
world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done
quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are
available to our intelligence agencies — if we are going to be
successful. That's the world these folks operate in. And, uh, so it's
going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal basically, to
achieve our objectives.”

Around the nation, one presumes, numbed heads were nodding in approval. Whatever it takes to get those bastards.
The true nature of our Faustian bargain would not become clear until
later, and maybe it needed a journalist as steely and tenacious as Jane
Mayer to give us the full picture. “The Dark Side”
is about how the war on terror became “a war on American ideals,” and
Mayer gives this story all the weight and sorrow it deserves. Many
books get tagged with the word “essential”; hers actually is…

And so we must ask ourselves at last if terror is the best answer
to terror. Mayer has her doubts. “Torture works in several ways,” she
summarizes. “It can intimidate enemies, it can elicit false
confessions, and it can produce true confessions. Setting aside the
moral issues, the problem is recognizing what's true.” Mohammed
“confessed” to planning the assassinations of Presidents Clinton and
Carter, as well as Pope John Paul II. Zubayda, under assault, spun
outlandish tales of “plots to blow up American banks, supermarkets,
malls, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn
Bridge, and nuclear power plants,” sending law-enforcement officials
scurrying down any number of blind alleys.

The greatest damage came from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. Chief of an
al-Qaida training camp, he was captured by Pakistanis shortly after
9/11 and handed over to Egyptian interrogators, who pressed him for
damaging information on Saddam Hussein. Al-Libi didn't even understand
what “biological weapons” were, and at first he was so confused by the
line of questioning he couldn't come up with a story. Soon enough, he
figured out what his interrogators wanted, and the tale he fabricated
— WMD flowing in an unbroken line from Saddam to al-Qaida — became a
decisive factor in the decision to go to war. When asked later why he
had lied, al-Libi had a simple explanation: “They were killing me. I
had to tell them something.”

My ultimate liberal fantasy is for Dick Cheney to go on trial for war crimes.  Just as bad as the immorality of torturing persons, many of whom were innocent, is the immorality of degrading America's ideals for a demonstrably stupid policy.  Not likely, but one can dream.

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