Many moderate and even liberal journalists are calling for a free pass to all former government officials, especially top-ranking White Housers (aka, Dick, W. and Donald). The problem, I believe, is that if we have an honest investigation into the enhanced interrogation program we are bound to learn the disgusting truth behind torture and about the “Wag the Dog” activism key members of the establishment press played in promoting disinformation in furtherance of the government’s illegal activities.
One thing that has bothered me over recent weeks has been the extent to which the mainstream press has promoted or even allowed to be promoted two notions: first, that torture could be a vital and necessary means for protecting our national security; and second, that White House and government officials may at times be above the law. The sum of these two, as attempts to rationalize or even exculpate torture, equate to an outright admission that the government did in fact engage in torture.
On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, for example, moderator David Gregory kept asking his guests the same questions over and over again: whether torture saved lives, as if that were even a serious variable to be taken into consideration. Earlier in the week, Michael Scheuer wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that torture was a necessary tool in the government’s anti-terrorism arsenal, citing the hypothetical example, of having Bin Laden in custody, the country on the verge of imminent mass destruction, and torture alone as the sole savior to our terrible predicament.
The absurdity of this, what I call the Abrahamic argument, is Biblical. It sounds like the Old Testament where God calls from the heavens to test man’s faith by asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. Come on! You can’t be serious, Mr. Scheuer. If we had Bin Laden in captivity, and he promised to only spill the beans were we to rape our own grandmothers, should the government acquiesce? These guys really think we’re stupid.
Just-trust-me Cheney wants us to believe that torture saved lives. And many conservative pundits, as well, now accept that we did in fact torture, but they want the government to turn over the evidence (aka, the fruit of the torturous tree) that proves that torture saved lives, that torture should be legalized. But wouldn’t that justify, say, torturing every high school student and other potential domestic suicide assassin to avoid another Columbine?
Furthermore, the Bush Administration cannot possibly reconcile the images of Abu Ghraib or the torture — not of the worst of the worst but of everyone else we held in custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the secret prisons around the world — with an underlying intelligence gathering purpose. How does humiliating prisoners in Iraq stop an imminent attack in the U.S.? As a matter of fact, the government knew that this argument would not fly, and therefore, put all of the blame on a few “bad seeds”. And guess what the press did? They bought and resold it. Ironically, the same press that bought that argument then is now calling for the big cheeses to be given a free pass, while the “bad seed” scapegoats rot in jail.
On the same day that Scheuer published his article, Mark Danner wrote “If everyone knew, then who is to blame?” (also in the Washington Post). The truth of the matter is that everyone knew. Not only did everyone know, but the White House also knew that everyone knew. Why else would the government have leaked the disinformation that waterboarding was some miracle truth serum that had already achieved almost immediate results with zero long-term affects?
Guess who gave the White House its free pass on what we now know was a total lie? The mainstream press. As originally reported by Brian Stetler in the New York Times and discussed by Glen Greenwald earlier this week in Salon.com, ABC News’ Brian Ross played an active role in perpetuating the falsehoods about the Khalid Sheik Mohammed interrogation – namely that he spilled the beans in a matter of seconds. Greenwald writes,
We now know that this claim, too, was patently false, as Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month alone. Yet two years before the Zubaydah falsehood examined this morning by Stelter, this false “fact” — that waterboarding works almost immediately in saving Americans lives as demonstrated by how quickly it broke Mohammed — was repeated over and over to argue that waterboarding is both highly effective and, given how quickly it works, cannot possibly constitute torture.
So how should we understand Cheney’s argument that those 183 instances of waterboarding produced essential information that saved lives? Especially knowing as we do now that the interrogation technique approved by the DOJ attorneys were based on a Chinese field guide for inducing false testimony. Yes, that’s right. These techniques were not designed to produce quality intelligence – the kind that saves lives — but to manufacture confessions — the kind that produces propoganda. How did the interrogators know on the 183th dunk to stop waterboarding? At what point did they get the testimony they were waiting for?
If we already know that the press, and consequently the American public, was willing to be wagged and believe anything the government told it – the fabricated WMD evidence, the yellow cake in Niger, the waterboarding miracle, etc – all as propaganda in favor of invading Iraq, then my guess is that if we further investigate the enhanced interrogation program – now universally recognized as torture by Republicans and Democrats alike– we’ll learn that one of the program’s central goals was to find, at any cost, testimony, true or false, connecting the War in Iraq to 9/11 and the War on Terror. For expediency’s sake and to avoid a full-out partisan war (as if there wasn’t one already), many in the press, in the White House and on the Hill are saying that an investigation is dangerous. What they aren’t saying is why it is really dangerous: Americans don’t want to learn just how embedded its press is with the government, just how permissive everyone on both sides of the aisle were in the War on Terror, and just how passive the American people are when it comes to what the government and press tell them.