2008-07-13

Torture Verified

This is very illuminating. Greenwald always does an excellent job of making legal issues understandable and compelling:
According to the New York Times and Washington Post, both of which received an advanced copy, Mayer's book reports the following:
  • "Red Cross investigators concluded last year in a secret report that the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation methods for high-level Qaeda prisoners constituted torture and could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes."
  • "A CIA analyst warned the Bush administration in 2002 that up to a third of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake, but White House officials ignored the finding and insisted that all were 'enemy combatants' subject to indefinite incarceration."
  • "[A] top aide to Vice President Cheney shrugged off the report and squashed proposals for a quick review of the detainees' cases . . .

    'There will be no review,' the book quotes Cheney staff director David Addington as saying. 'The president has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it.'"

  • "[T]he [CIA] analyst estimated that a full third of the camp's detainees were there by mistake. When told of those findings, the top military commander at Guantanamo at the time, Major Gen. Michael Dunlavey, not only agreed with the assessment but suggested that an even higher percentage of detentions -- up to half -- were in error. Later, an academic study by Seton Hall University Law School concluded that 55 percent of detainees had never engaged in hostile acts against the United States, and only 8 percent had any association with al-Qaeda."
  • [T]he International Committee of the Red Cross declared in the report, given to the C.I.A. last year, that the methods used on Abu Zubaydah, the first major Qaeda figure the United States captured, were 'categorically' torture, which is illegal under both American and international law".
  • "[T]he Red Cross document 'warned that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted.'"
This is what a country becomes when it decides that it will not live under the rule of law, when it communicates to its political leaders that they are free to do whatever they want -- including breaking our laws -- and there will be no consequences. There are two choices and only two choices for every country -- live under the rule of law or live under the rule of men. We've collectively decided that our most powerful political leaders are not bound by our laws -- that when they break the law, there will be no consequences. We've thus become a country which lives under the proverbial "rule of men" -- that is literally true, with no hyperbole needed -- and Mayer's revelations are nothing more than the inevitable by-product of that choice.

That's why this ongoing, well-intentioned debate that Andrew Sullivan is having with himself and his readers over whether "torture is worse than illegal, warrantless eavesdropping" is so misplaced, and it's also why those who are dismissing as "an overblown distraction" the anger generated by last week's Congressional protection of surveillance lawbreakers are so deeply misguided. Things like "torture" and "illegal eavesdropping" can't be compared as though they're separate, competing policies. They are rooted in the same framework of lawlessness. The same rationale that justifies one is what justifies the other. Endorsing one is to endorse all of it.

In fact, none of the scandals of radicalism and criminality which we've learned about over the last seven years -- including the creation of this illegal torture regime -- can be viewed in isolation. They're all by-products of the country that we've become in the post-9/11 era, primarily as a result of our collective decision to exempt our Government leaders from the rule of law; to acquiesce to the manipulative claim that we can only be Safe if we allow our Leaders to be free from consequences when they commit crimes; and to demonize advocates of the rule of law as -- to use Larry Lessig's mindless, reactionary clich├ęs -- shrill, Leftist "hysterics" who need to "get off [their] high horse(s)".

That is the mentality that has allowed the Bush administration to engage in this profound assault on our national character, to violate our laws at will. Our political and media elite have acquiesced to all of this when they weren't cheering it all on. Those who object to it, who argue that these abuses of political power are dangerous in the extreme and that we cannot tolerate deliberate government lawbreaking, are dismissed as shrill Leftist hysterics.

Read the whole thing. It's not too much longer.

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