I just received an email from former congressman Harold Ford Jr., now the chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, defending remarks he made on cable TV saying it was understandable that after 9-11 "enhanced" interrogation "methods" were used to "gain valuable and in some cases actionable intelligence", but that he really doesn't approve of torture.
Here's what I wrote back:
Dear Harold --
I don't buy it -- what the Cheney-Bush administration did was torture, pure and simple.
It was an extremely counter-productive, nationally and internationally illegal, war crime that overall made our country less safe.
And, if that's not enough for you, it was morally wrong, too. It was disgusting.
Please don't use Orwellian euphemisms like "enhanced interrogation methods."
If hooded men took your father, stripped him naked, chained his arms and suspended him by the chains from the ceiling, and kept him in this "stress position" for days so it felt like his arms were being pulled out of his shoulder sockets, while at the same time his captors dropped the temperature in his cell to shivering, near freezing, levels, and played such loud sounds 24 hours a day to prevent him from getting any blessed sleep for days on end, would you say, "My dad received enhanced interrogation techniques"?
Or would you say "They tortured my father."
Or let's say they took your wife, threatened her with snarling dogs and forced her into a cramped, totally dark, sweltering coffin-like box too small for her to lay in without scrunching her body up, and then put in crawling insects and left her there for days to stew in her stinking bodily wastes, would you say,"Oh, well, they just gave my wife some enhanced interrogation?"
Or would you say, "They tortured my wife."
Of if they took your son, blindfolded him, and then tied him to a long wooden board, stuffed a filthy rag into his mouth and up into his nose, and then inclined the board and began pouring water, or maybe some other liquid, up his nose and into his mouth through the dirty rag so he couldn't breathe, and water was entering his sinuses and lungs, so he felt as if -- and in fact was -- starting to drown, cutting off his oxygen; and then they repeated this waterboarding over and over again, saying that they would stop it only when he confessed to X, Y or Z . . . would you say, "Yes, they gave enhanced interrogation methods to my boy"?
Or would you say, "Those bastards, they tortured my son. "
And one of the worst, most mind-bending things about the Cheney-Bush administration's worldwide torture program was that American service-people, contractors and other government operators did a lot of this torture stuff to completely innocent people who, unfortunately for them, were swept up indiscriminately in massive round-ups by non-local language-speaking GIs in Afghanistan and Iraq, or who were denounced and turned over to the Americans by local tribal rivals or gangsters in exchange for locally huge cash rewards.
Tragically, many, many -- quite possibly a majority -- of the unfortunates imprisoned in places like Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Gitmo -- are not terrorists. Torturing terrorists is wrong and counterproductive in so many way, but torturing hundreds and thousands of the innocent people in those prisons was the totally inevitable result of an unjust, unwise and cruel policy that came down from the top as implemented by people lower down on the food chain, some of whom became more and more sadistic.
Also ironic is the fact that waterboarding has been employed since at least the Spanish Inquisition to extract false confessions from prisoners -- the so-called "intelligence" it produces is notoriously unreliable -- people will confess to anything under the torture -- and least one known U.S. torture victim told the Cheney administration what they wanted to hear before the invasion of Iraq -- that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction. That was "valuable . . . actionable intelligence."
Look, Harold, this was a disaster on all levels, moral, legal and practical, and you simply cannot triangulate on this.
Please remember that now as a result of this stupid and despicable U.S. torture policy, there are many thousands if not millions of people in the Muslim world who now can say. "Those bastards, the Americans, they tortured my husband . . . or my father . . . or my son . . . or my cousin . . . or my uncle . . . or my neighbor's father . . . or my neighbors son . . . they tortured our people."
This was bad policy on all levels, Harold, don't excuse it or try to sweep it under the carpet. It's too big.
Chris Matthews is right -- you're trending toward Cheney-world.
I have a lot of respect for your political abilities, Harold, but please, please rethink your position on this and stop excusing the inexcusable.
My Best Regards,
(The historic photos in this blog post are, of course not copyrighted by me, but I believe that republishing them here is a fair use under copyright law, especially those images that were taken by U.S. government employees at the Abu Ghraib prison.)
Labels: Dick Cheney, Harold Ford Jr., Torture, waterboarding