Dec 26, 2008
On December 11, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a
compelling report into the torture and abuse of prisoners in US custody
based on a detailed analysis of how Chinese torture techniques, which
are used in US military schools to train personnel to resist
interrogation if captured, were reverse engineered and applied to
prisoners captured in the "War on Terror."
The techniques, taught as part of the SERE programs (Survival,
Evasion, Resistance, Escape) include sleep deprivation, the prolonged
use of stress positions, forced nudity, hooding, exposure to extreme
temperatures, subjecting prisoners to loud music and flashing lights, "treating them like animals," and, in some cases, the ancient torture technique known as waterboarding, a form of controlled drowning that the torturers of the Spanish Inquisition called "tortura del agua."
The report rejected the conclusions of over a dozen investigations, conducted since the Abu Ghraib scandal
in 2004, which identified problems concerning the treatment of
prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, but which were not
authorized to gaze up the chain of command to blame senior officials
for approving the use of torture by US forces, and for instigating
This enabled the administration to maintain, as it did with Abu
Ghraib, that any abuse was the result of the rogue activities of "a few
bad apples," but the Senate Committee report comprehensively demolished
this defense. The authors wrote:
The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be
attributed to the actions of "a few bad apples" acting on their own.
The fact is that senior officials in the United States government
solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined
the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized
their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to
collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the
hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.
Those singled out for blame include President George W. Bush (for
stripping prisoners of the protections of the Geneva Conventions in
February 2002, which paved the way for all the abuse that followed),
former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney's
former legal counsel (and now chief of staff) David Addington, former
Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II, former Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, former White House general
counsel (and later US Attorney General) Alberto Gonzales, former White
House deputy counsel Timothy Flanigan, former Assistant Attorney
General Jay S. Bybee, former Justice Department legal adviser John Yoo,
former Guantanamo commanders Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey and Maj. Gen.
Geoffrey Miller, and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of
coalition forces in Iraq.
The one senior official who was not mentioned -- presumably because
of the talent for remaining behind the scenes that once earned him the
secret service nickname "Backseat" -- was Dick Cheney. However, just four days later, as if to make up for his omission from the report, Cheney was interviewed by ABC News,
and took the opportunity to present a detailed defense of the
administration's national security policies, throwing down a very
public gauntlet to critics of torture, Guantanamo, illegal wiretapping
and the invasion of Iraq, and raising fears that he was only doing so
because a Presidential pardon is just around the corner.
Cheney's most significant remark was his first admission in public that he was involved in approving the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks (who, it should be noted, claimed responsibility
for the attacks before he was captured by US forces). However, the
entire interview is worth looking at, as Cheney's version of the truth
does not stand up to scrutiny, and features ten lies that should not be
allowed to pass without further comment and analysis.
1) On the supposed legality of unauthorized wiretapping
Asked what he thought about suggestions from Barack Obama's
transition team that the Bush administration's homeland security policy
"has basically been torture and illegal wiretapping, and that they want
to undo the central tenets of your anti-terrorist policy," Cheney
replied, "They're wrong. On the question of terrorist surveillance,
this was always a policy to intercept communications between
terrorists, or known terrorists, or so-called 'dirty numbers,' and
folks inside the United States, to capture those international
communications. It's worked. It's been successful. It's now embodied in
the FISA statute that we passed last year, and that Barack Obama voted
for, which I think was a good decision on his part. It's a very, very
important capability. It is legal. It was legal from the very
beginning. It is constitutional, and to claim that it isn't I think is
THE LIE: Although the Bush administration secured Congressional approval for the Authorization for Use of Military Force
(AUMF) in the week after the 9/11 attacks (the founding document of the
"War on Terror," which granted the President seemingly open-ended
powers "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those
nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized,
committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September
11, 2001"), the approval for the warrantless surveillance of
communications to and from the United States that followed on September
25 was neither "legal" nor "constitutional."
In a series on Dick Cheney in the Washington Post
last summer, Barton Gellman and Jo Becker explained how, on the day of
the 9/11 attacks, Cheney and David Addington swiftly assembled a team
that included Timothy Flanigan and John Yoo to begin "contemplating the
founding question of the legal revolution to come: What extraordinary
powers will the President need for his response?" Gellman and Becker
described how Flanigan, with advice from Yoo, drafted the AUMF, and Yoo
explained that "they used the broadest possible language because 'this
war was so different, you can't predict what might come up'."
In fact, as the authors point out, they "knew very well what would
come next: the interception -- without a warrant -- of communications
to and from the United States." Although warrantless communications
intercepts had been forbidden by federal law since 1978, the
administration claimed that they were "justified, in secret, as
'incident to' the authority Congress had just granted" the President,
in a memorandum that Yoo finalized on 25 September. Far from being
"legal" and "constitutional," therefore, the secret memorandum was the
first brazen attempt by the key policy-makers (in the Office of the
Vice President and the Pentagon) to use the AUMF as cover for an
unprecedented expansion of presidential power that was intended to cut
Congress, the judiciary, and all other government departments out of
2) On the definition of torture
Moving on to the allegations of torture, Cheney said, "On the
question of so-called 'torture,' we don't do torture, we never have.
It's not something that this administration subscribes to. Again, we
proceeded very cautiously; we checked, we had the Justice Department
issue the requisite opinions in order to know where the bright lines
were that you could not cross. The professionals involved in that
program were very, very cautious, very careful, wouldn't do anything
without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal. And any
suggestion to the contrary is just wrong."
THE LIE: The claim, "we don't do torture," which
President Bush has also peddled on numerous occasions, is an outright
lie. The definition of torture, as laid down in the UN Convention Against Torture,
to which the US is a signatory, is "any act by which severe pain or
suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a
person." However, in the summer of 2002 (obviously with Cheney's
knowledge), John Yoo, with input from Addington, Gonzales and Flanigan,
drafted another secret memorandum, issued on August 1 (PDF),
which has become known as the "Torture Memo." This extraordinary
document -- one of the most legally manipulative in the whole of the
"War on Terror" -- drew creatively on historical rulings about torture
in countries including Northern Ireland and Bosnia, and attempted to
claim that, for the pain inflicted to count as torture, it "must be
equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical
injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even
Last summer, Yoo confirmed that Addington was responsible for
another of the memo's radical claims -- that, as Commander in Chief,
the President could authorize torture if he felt that it was necessary
-- and also confirmed that a second opinion was signed off on August 1,
2002, which, unlike the first (leaked after the Abu Ghraib scandal in
2004) has never been made public. An unnamed source cited by Gellman
and Becker explained that this second memo contained a long list of
techniques approved for use by the CIA, which included waterboarding,
but apparently drew the line at threatening to bury a prisoner alive.
As a result, all Cheney's talk of "careful" and "cautious" legal
advice is nothing more than a failed attempt to justify redefining
torture. Outside of the White House and the Pentagon, it has always
been abundantly clear that the SERE techniques (let alone the more
extreme methods approved for use by the CIA) are torture, pure and
simple, and the Senate Committee's recent report quotes extensively
from a number of bodies -- the Air Force, the Defense Department's
Criminal Investigative Task Force, the Army's International and
Operational Law Division, the Navy and the Marine Corps -- who were
opposed to their implementation for this very reason. Others, who took
their complaints to the highest levels, were Alberto J. Mora, the head
of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the FBI.
3) On intelligence obtained through torture
Following his defense of the interrogation techniques authorized by
the administration, Cheney continued: "Did it produce the desired
results? I think it did. I think, for example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
who was the number three man in al-Qaeda, the man who planned the
attacks of 9/11, provided us with a wealth of information. There was a
period of time there, three or four years ago, when about half of
everything we knew about al-Qaeda came from that one source."
THE LIE: With exquisite timing, Cheney's bombastic
pronouncements about the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and
its supposed value coincided with the publication, in Vanity Fair,
of an article by David Rose, in which a number of senior officials from
both the FBI and the CIA directly refuted Cheney's claims. The article,
which is worth reading in its entirety, focused primarily on the
torture of Abu Zubaydah, Binyam Mohamed and Jose Padilla
(which I have discussed at length before), but there were also key
insights into the torture of KSM. Although President Bush claimed that
KSM had provided "many details of other plots to kill innocent
Americans," a former senior CIA official, who read all the
interrogation reports from KSM's torture in secret CIA custody,
explained that "90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit," and a
former Pentagon analyst added, "KSM produced no actionable
intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were."
In addition, Cheney's claims about KSM were directly contradicted by
Jack Cloonan, a senior FBI operative whose torture-free interrogation
of al-Qaeda operatives in the years before 9/11 provides an object
lesson in how the administration should have operated afterwards.
Disputing the unspecified claims that, as Cheney put it, the
interrogation of KSM had produced "a wealth of information," Cloonan
said, "The proponents of torture say, 'Look at the body of information
that has been obtained by these methods.' But if KSM and Abu Zubaydah
did give up stuff, we would have heard the details." Rose added that a
former CIA officer asked, "Why can't they say what the good stuff from
Abu Zubaydah or KSM is? It's not as if this is sensitive material from
a secret, vulnerable source. You're not blowing your source but
validating your program. They say they can't do this, even though five
or six years have passed, because it's a 'continuing operation.' But
has it really taken so long to check it all out?"
However, what was probably the most damning opinion was offered by FBI director Robert Mueller:
I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on
America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the
administration still calls "enhanced techniques"?
"I'm really reluctant to answer that," Mueller says. He pauses,
looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: "I
don't believe that has been the case."
4) On approval for the use of torture on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
The key elements of Cheney's admission that waterboarding was used
on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and that Cheney believed that this was
"appropriate," are as follows:
Jonathan Karl: Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
Dick Cheney: I was aware of the program certainly, and
involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency, in effect,
came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they
talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do, and
I supported it. Jonathan Karl: In hindsight, do you think any of those tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?
Dick Cheney: I don't.
Jonathan Karl: And on KSM, one of those tactics, of
course, widely reported was waterboarding, and that seems to be a
tactic we no longer use. Even that you think was appropriate? Dick Cheney: I do.
THE LIE: Cheney's explanation of how he came to
"support" the CIA program that was responsible for the torture of
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (and numerous other "high-value detainees")
suggests that he was little more than an adviser for a preconceived
project. Yet again, nothing could be further from the truth.
To understand why, it is necessary to examine how the "Torture
Memos" of August 2002 came about, by looking at the events of November
13, 2001, when, under the cover of his regular weekly meeting with the
President, Cheney played the leading role in circulating and gaining
approval for a presidential order that authorized the President to
seize "terror suspects" anywhere in the world and imprison them as
"enemy combatants" without charge or trial, (or, if required, to try
them in Military Commissions, which were empowered to accept secret
evidence and evidence obtained through torture).
Approved within an hour by only two other figures in the White House
-- associate counsel Bradford Berenson, and deputy staff secretary
Stuart Bowen, whose objections that it had to be seen by other
presidential advisors were only dropped after "rapid, urgent
persuasion" that the President "was standing by to sign and that the
order was too sensitive to delay" -- the order was the first move in a
deliberate ploy to strip prisoners of rights, so that they could be
interrogated as the administration saw fit.
This was confirmed the following day, when Cheney told the US
Chamber of Commerce that terrorists do not "deserve to be treated as
prisoners of war." It took him another ten weeks to persuade the
President to agree with him, but in the meantime the pressure to
approve the use of torture increased when, shortly after Guantanamo
opened, a CIA delegation came to the White House to explain, as John
Yoo described it, that they were "going to have some real difficulties
getting actionable intelligence from detainees," if interrogators were
obliged to confine themselves to treatment permitted by the Geneva
While this timeline confirms that CIA representatives pressed for
removing the protections of the Geneva Conventions in mid-January 2002,
it's also clear that Cheney had a similar plan in mind at least two
months earlier. After the CIA visit, Addington wrote another notorious
memorandum -- to which the rather less articulate Alberto Gonzales put
his name -- in which the Conventions' "strict limits on questioning of
enemy prisoners" were seen as hindering attempts "to quickly obtain
information from captured terrorists."
This was issued on January 25, and on February 6 Addington provided
the President with the words for his next presidential order, which, as
Cheney had signaled on November 14, stated that the protections of the
Geneva Conventions did not apply to prisoners seized in the "War on
Terror." The final development came after the capture of Abu Zubaydah
on March 28, 2002, when, as John Yoo explained, CIA officials returned
to the White House to ask "what the legal limits on interrogation are."
As described above, this led to the "Torture Memos" of August 2002,
even though the torture of Zubaydah began four months before the memos
In conclusion, then, although the CIA had some input, the
development of the entire program, from November 13, 2001 to August 1,
2002, in which prisoners were defined as "enemy combatants," stripped
of all rights so that they could be interrogated, and then set up for
torture, was driven not by the CIA but by Cheney and his close advisers.
In Part One of this article, Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison, examined Dick Cheney's recent interview with ABC News,
in which the Vice President presented a detailed defense of the
administration's national security policies, throwing down a very
public gauntlet to critics of torture, Guantanamo, illegal wiretapping
and the invasion of Iraq. Part One focused on Cheney's lies regarding
the use of torture and the implementation of warrantless wiretapping,
and this second part examines his lies regarding Guantanamo and the
invasion of Iraq.
5) On the prisoners in Guantanamo
When Jonathan Karl mentioned that President Bush had said that he
wanted to close Guantanamo two years ago, and asked, "Why has that not
happened?" Cheney said, "It's very hard to do. Guantanamo has been the
repository, if you will, of hundreds of terrorists, or suspected
terrorists, that we've captured since 9/11. They -- many of them,
hundreds, have been released back to their home countries. What we have
left is the hardcore. Their cases are reviewed on an annual basis to
see whether or not they're still a threat, whether or not they're still
intelligence value in terms of continuing to hold them. But -- and
we're down now to some 200 being held at Guantanamo -- that includes
the core group, the really high-value targets like Khalid Sheikh
THE LIE: Cheney's description of the remaining
prisoners as "the hardcore" is typical, but by no means accurate, as
the Vice President has always claimed that those in Guantanamo are "the
hardcore" or "the worst of the worst." Just two weeks after Guantanamo
opened, on January 27, 2002, he told Fox News,
"These are the worst of a very bad lot. They are very dangerous. They
are devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if
they can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort." And
last July, on CNN,
he said, "I think you need to have someplace to hold those individuals
who have been captured during the global war on terror. I'm thinking of
people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ... There are hundreds of people
like that, and if you closed Guantanamo, you'd have to find someplace
else to put these folks."
Given that around 80 prisoners have been released since Cheney made
this last pronouncement, it's clear that his talk of "hardcore"
prisoners is a repeated lie, adjusted according to how many prisoners
are actually held at Guantanamo.
In addition, Cheney's unsubstantiated claim about the remaining prisoners ignores the fact that, as I explained at length in The Guantanamo Files, and have repeatedly described in articles (most recently here),
the majority of the prisoners at Guantanamo were captured not by US
forces, but by their Afghan and Pakistani allies, at a time when the US
military was offering substantial bounty payments for "al-Qaeda and
Taliban suspects." Moreover, they have never been screened adequately
to determine whether they should have been declared as "enemy
combatants" -- not on capture (when they should have received Article 5
battlefield tribunals, according to the Geneva Conventions), not in the
prisons in Afghanistan that were used to process them for Guantanamo
(where the orders were that every Arab was to be sent to Cuba), and not
in Guantanamo itself. The tribunals established to review the status of
the prisoners in Guantanamo relied almost exclusively on woefully
generic information, and on confessions obtained through the torture,
coercion or bribery of other prisoners. As former insider Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham
has eloquently explained, the entire process was designed not to
provide justice, but to defend the administration's blanket assertions
that the prisoners were "enemy combatants."
6) On the prisoners' rights
Cheney continued, "Now, the question, if you're going to close
Guantanamo, what are you going to do with those prisoners? One
suggestion is, well, we'll bring them to the United States. Well, I
don't know very many congressmen, for example, who are eager to have
200 al-Qaeda terrorists deposited in their district. It's a complex and
difficult problem. If you bring them onshore into the United States,
they automatically acquire certain legal rights and responsibilities
that the government would then have, that they don't as long as they're
at Guantanamo. And that's an important consideration.
THE LIE: In this statement, Cheney's lie, which
reveals his disdain for the Supreme Court, is his claim that, as long
as the prisoners are in Guantanamo, they don't have "certain legal
rights." As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, the pretence that
Guantanamo was beyond the reach of US law, and that the prisoners could
be held without rights, was demolished in June 2004, when the highest
court in the land ruled in Rasul v. Bush
that Guantanamo was "territory over which the United States exercises
exclusive jurisdiction and control," and that, because the prisoners
denied that they had "engaged in or plotted acts of aggression against
this country," and had "never been afforded access to any tribunal,
much less charged with and convicted of wrongdoing," they had habeas
corpus rights; in other words, the right to challenge the basis of
their detention before an impartial judge.
The administration then persuaded Congress to remove these rights in
two appalling pieces of legislation -- the Detainee Treatment Act of
2005, and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 -- but the Supreme Court
restored their habeas corpus rights in another landmark case in June
2008, Boumediene v. Bush,
and made sure that Cheney could not persuade Congress to remove them
again by ruling that this time their rights were constitutional.
The prisoners have therefore had "certain legal rights" since June
2004, although it is clear that Cheney still does not regard Supreme
Court rulings as having any impact on the President's whims as the
Commander-in-Chief of a self-declared war without end.
7) On conditions at Guantanamo
Next, Cheney said, "These are not American citizens. They are not
subject, nor do they have the same rights that an American citizen does
vis-a-vis the government. But they are well treated."
THE LIE: It is hard to conceive of a manner in
which the prisoners at Guantanamo are "well treated." A dedicated PR
machine has attempted to make out that they are all coddled and
well-fed, but the truth is that, unlike convicted criminals on the US
mainland, who watch TV, have opportunities to socialize, receive family
visits and have regular access to reading and writing materials, the
prisoners in Guantanamo -- who have never been charged with a crime,
let alone convicted -- are deprived of almost all "comfort items" to
relieve the crushing monotony of their daily lives and the desperate
uncertainty of their fate. They have, for example, never received a
single visit from their loved ones, they are still hurled into
isolation cells or beaten by armored response teams for the slightest
infraction of the rules, and if they protest their seemingly endless
imprisonment without charge or trial by embarking on hunger strikes,
they are force-fed in the most brutal manner, even though force-feeding competent prisoners is illegal.
8) On the Military Commissions at Guantanamo
Cheney continued, "They also have the opportunity, and the process
has just started now to be heard before a military commission with a
judgment, fair and honest judgment made about their guilt or innocence,
to be represented by counsel provided through that process."
THE LIE: I have covered the Military Commissions in
depth over the last year and a half, and at no point has it ever been
demonstrated that the system dreamt up by Cheney and Addington in
November 2001 is "fair and honest." Every defense attorney appointed by
the government has risked his or her career
by openly criticizing the system, and several prosecutors have resigned
in protest at what they regarded as a rigged system, the most
significant being Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor, who
complained of political interference, and Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld,
who complained that evidence vital to the defense was routinely
withheld. Both stories were covered in detail in my article, "The Dark Heart of the Guantanamo Trials."
Other problems include the fact that two prisoners who were juveniles when seized (Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad)
have been put forward for trials, despite the fact that no juvenile has
been put forward for a war crimes trial since the Second World War, and
despite claims that the allegations against them are rigged, and
several insignificant Afghan prisoners have also been charged. Moreover, the prisoners regarded as particularly significant (the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators, for example) have been allowed to make a mockery of the system, and on the eve of the Presidential election, a man named Ali Hamza al-Bahlul
was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his association
with al-Qaeda, even though he refused to mount a defense. In the rest
of the world, that would be referred to as a show trial.
9) On the alleged recidivism of released prisoners
Cheney was asked about the danger of closing Guantanamo "too soon," shortly after the following disturbing exchange took place:
Jonathan Karl: So when do you think we'll be at a point where Guantanamo could be responsibly shut down?
Dick Cheney: Well, I think that would come with the end of the war on terror.
Jonathan Karl: When's that going to be?
Dick Cheney: Well, nobody knows. Nobody can specify that.
Jonathan Karl: But basically it sounds like you're saying Guantanamo Bay will be open indefinitely.
Cheney said, "Well, if you release people that shouldn't have been
released, and that's happened in some cases already, you end up with
them back on the battlefield. We've had, as I recall now -- and these
are rough numbers, I'd want to check it -- but, say, approximately 30
of these folks who've been held in Guantanamo, been released, and ended
up back on the battlefield again, and we've encountered them a second
time around. They've either been killed or captured in further
conflicts with our forces."
THE LIE: The claim that 30 former prisoners "ended
up back on the battlefield" is a staple of Pentagon propaganda, even
though it has never been backed up with evidence. Instead, as the Seton
Hall Law School noted in a report last December (PDF),
the Pentagon regarded speaking out about Guantanamo as "returning to
the battlefield" (as in the case of three Britons, Ruhal Ahmed, Asif
Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, who were involved in a film about their
experiences, The Road to Guantanamo).
The Pentagon has also conveniently ignored the fact that at least six Taliban fighters were released
because the US authorities had refused to consult with their Afghan
allies. In 2004, officials in Hamid Karzai's government blamed the US
for the return of Taliban commanders to the battlefield, explaining
that "neither the American military officials, nor the Kabul police,
who briefly process the detainees when they are sent home, consult them
about the detainees they free."
The true number of prisoners who have "returned to the battlefield"
is certainly less than the number quoted by the Pentagon -- and by Dick
Cheney -- although it should also be noted that, even if it were
correct, a recidivism rate of 6 percent is considerably lower than in
any other US prison, and indicates, of course, that a large number of
those released were not terrorists or militants in the first place.
10) On the reason for invading Iraq
Turning to Iraq, Jonathan Karl said, "You probably saw -- Karl Rove
last week said that if the intelligence had been correct, we probably
would not have gone to war," and Cheney responded, "I disagree with
that. I think the -- as I look at the intelligence with respect to
Iraq, what they got wrong was that there weren't any stockpiles. What
we found in the after-action reports after the intelligence report was
done and then various special groups went and looked at the
intelligence and what its validity was, what they found was that Saddam
Hussein still had the capability to produce weapons of mass
destruction. He had the technology, he had the people, he had the basic
feedstocks. They also found that he had every intention of resuming
production once the international sanctions were lifted."
THE LIE: Brazen to the end, Cheney has clung to the
WMD deception as though it had ever been anything other than an excuse
for regime change following the illegal invasion of a sovereign
country, driven by a deranged desire to gain geopolitical supremacy and
establish an ill-defined facsimile of the American political and
economic system in the heart of the Middle East.
No one credible agrees with Cheney's assessment of Saddam Hussein's
weapons capabilities -- or his intentions -- and in addition, of
course, Cheney has a colourful and reprehensible record of bullying the
intelligence agencies into finding reasons to invade Iraq, and promoting the fiction that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain "yellowcake" uranium ore from Niger.
Moreover, two of Cheney's particular enthusiasms -- the torture of prisoners, and the invasion of Iraq -- came together when Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi,
the head of the Khaldan military training camp in Afghanistan (which
had little connection with al-Qaeda) was captured and sent to Egypt to
be tortured, where he made a false confession that Saddam Hussein had
offered to train two al-Qaeda operatives in the use of chemical and
biological weapons. Al-Libi later recanted his confession, but not
until Secretary of State Colin Powell -- to his eternal shame -- has
used the story in February 2003 in an attempt to persuade the UN to
support the invasion of Iraq.
This, of course, is disturbing enough, but as David Rose explained in an article in Vanity Fair
that coincided with Cheney's recent ABC News interview, al-Libi was not
the only torture victim spouting nonsense about Saddam Hussein and
According to two senior intelligence analysts, Abu Zubaydah,
the facilitator for the Khaldan camp, who, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
was subjected to torture -- including waterboarding -- also made a
number of false confessions about connections between Saddam Hussein
and al-Qaeda, beyond one ludicrous claim which was subsequently leaked
by the administration: that Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
were working with Saddam Hussein to destabilize the autonomous Kurdish
region in northern Iraq. One of the analysts, who worked at the
Pentagon, explained, "The intelligence community was lapping this up,
and so was the administration, obviously. Abu Zubaydah was saying Iraq
and al-Qaeda had an operational relationship. It was everything the
administration hoped it would be."
However, none of the analysts knew that these confessions had been
obtained through torture. The Pentagon analyst told David Rose, "As
soon as I learned that the reports had come from torture, once my anger
had subsided I understood the damage it had done. I was so angry,
knowing that the higher-ups in the administration knew he was tortured,
and that the information he was giving up was tainted by the torture,
and that it became one reason to attack Iraq." He added, "It seems to
me they were using torture to achieve a political objective."
This is the end, for now, of my tour through the dark, unjust and
counter-productive world fashioned by Dick Cheney and his colleagues
and close advisers in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but I hope -- as
disturbing rumors begin to swirl -- that it serves to confirm how a
Presidential pardon for the Vice President would, effectively, be an
endorsement for some of the cruellest manfestations of unfettered
executive power and disdain for the rule of law that the United States
has ever experienced.
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