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The Daily Dish

Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld Knew They Were Innocent

Andrew Sullivan

Torture supporters Liz and Dick Cheney, at a party for torture supporter Brit Hume the pro-torture Fox News Corporation. (Photo: by Brendan Hoffman/Getty.)

The inmates at Gitmo were routinely referred to as "the worst of the
worst." Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney all knowingly pushed this lie. And it
was a lie - because they all knew that the chaotic way in which these
terror suspects had been captured had left such esoteric questions as
innocence or guilt by the wayside.

In a March 24 legal
declaration in the Hamdi case, a first-hand eye-witness to the
Bush-Cheney administration's contempt for due process and embrace of
torture, stated under oath what he saw on the inside. The statement - widely
across the world - was largely ignored by the US MSM.

But it's devastating to have a former high Bush-Cheney official state
under oath that the last administration knew it had countless innocent
prisoners, lied about it, and tortured many. Lawrence Wilkerson, former
secretary of state Colin Powell's chief of staff, is the man putting the
record straight. Money quote:

In fact, by late August 2002, I found that of the initial
742 detainees that had arrived at Guantánamo, the majority of them had
never seen a U.S. soldier in the process of their initial detention and
their captivity had not been subjected to any meaningful review. A
but related problem was that often absolutely no evidence relating to
the detainee was turned over, so there was no real method of knowing why
the prisoner had been detained in the first place. Secretary Powell was
also trying to bring pressure to bear regarding a number of specific
detentions because children as young as 12 and 13 and elderly as old as
92 or 93 had been shipped to Guantánamo...

During the morning
briefings, Ambassador at-Large for War Crimes, Pierre Prosper, who was a
primary person working on negotiating
transfers, would discuss the difficulty he encountered in dealing with
the Department of Defense, and specifically Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld, who just refused to let detainees go.

I came to
understand that there were several different reasons for the refusal to
release detainees in Guantánamo, even those who were likely innocent.
These reasons continued to the time of my departure from the Department
of State in 2005. At least part of the problem was that it was
politically impossible to release them. The concern expressed was that
if they were released to another country, even an ally such as the
United Kingdom, the leadership of the Defense Department would be left
without any plausible explanation to the American people, whether the
released detainee was subsequently found to be innocent by the receiving
country, or whether the detainee was truly a terrorist and, upon
release were it to then occur, would return to the war against the U.S.

concern was that the detention efforts at Guantánamo would be revealed
as the incredibly confused operation that they were. Such results were
not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely
detrimental to the leadership at DOD.

Another part of the
political dilemma originated in the Office of Vice President Richard B.
Cheney, whose position could be summed up as “the end justifies the
means”, and who had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of
Guantánamo detainees were innocent, or that there was a lack of any
useable evidence for the great majority of them. If hundreds of innocent
individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore
terrorists, so be it. That seemed to be the philosophy that ruled in the
Vice President’s Office.

I discussed the issue of the
Guantánamo detainees with Secretary Powell. From these discussions, I
learned that it was his view that it was not just Vice President Cheney
and Secretary Rumsfeld, but also President Bush who was involved in all
of the Guantánamo decision making. My own view is that it was easy for
Vice President Cheney to run circles around President Bush
bureaucratically because Cheney had the network within the government to
do so. Moreover, by exploiting what Secretary Powell called the
President’s “cowboy instincts,” Vice President Cheney could more often
than not gain the President’s acquiescence.

Lie after
lie after lie. And the illegal imprisonment and torture of individuals
often completely unrelated to terrorism at all. And no accountability.
This was America for almost eight years. And Obama has perpetuated the
avoidance of responsibility with staggering diligence.

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