The Twin Towers attack on September 11, 2001 shocked America. Not only were three thousand citizens killed but four passenger jets were hijacked right before our eyes. How could something so catastrophic happen in a Country that spends so much on intelligence gathering?
9/11 happened early in the George W Bush – Dick Cheney Administration. It was somewhat understandable, although completely unacceptable, that a new Administration might have trouble connecting the dots. After all Osama ben Laden and al Qaeda were not unknown to the intelligence community, but it does take time for an administration to gel.
The Neoconservative element saw an opening to asset a much more proactive foreign policy. They saw a chance for the US to flex it muscles and teach these “bad people” a lesson. Little did most Americans know that neocons had populated many key jobs in the Bush/Cheney teams. Richard Pearl, Paul Wolfowicz, Scooter Libby, and David Firth, all charter members of the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) began writing position papers on what the US needed to do to fight these radicals. Two products of their recommendations became the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq and enhanced interrogation techniques.
Both of these events went beyond the accepted bounds of governance and stepped into the unchartered area of war crimes.
The neocon driven frenzy connected Iraq and Saddam Hussein with 9/11 and the Iraq efforts to produce nuclear weapons. Using phony intelligence, this neocon faction got Colin Powell to say before the US Security Counsel that proof existed that Iraq was active in developing weapons of mass destruction. Time has shown this claim to be totally false.
When the Iraq invasion turned sour and instead of handing flowers to incoming US soldiers, the presumed grateful Iraqis offer IEDs to unsuspecting and unprotected US troops. Thanks to the neocons.
The neocons, however, were just getting started. They pressured the CIA and the Army to get tough with prisoners and gather intelligence. The Senate Intelligence Committee report issued yesterday fairly well documents the excesses of the CIA effort.
Abu Ghraib showcased the attempted corruption of the military. When Army prison officials would not voluntarily adopt enhanced interrogation, CIA and private security contractors were brought into work in Abu Ghraib. The rest is sad history.
The third piece of the get tough policy was to pressure the Justice Department to write opinions which held these methods as legal (thanks to Jonathan Yoo).
In both these cases, the neocon method of deflecting criticism (and frankly indictments) was to blame excess upon the low level soldiers and CIA officers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The prison guards and the CIA officers were doing what they were told to do.
The politically clever but ethically and morally lacking behavior of top Government officials such as George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld stand out for all to see… unless one is not distracted into the debate whether useful information was obtained from the use of torture or whether Saddam Hussein was a evil person or not.
Bush by apparent laziness and Cheney by misplaced intent started a ball rolling and cared not to know the details, only confirmation of results.
The fiery rhetoric we are hearing today is the frenzied GOP efforts to get this genie back in the bottle.
- The Senate Intelligence Committee report was written only by Democrats (Republicans refused to participate).
- The Committee did not interview any of the CIA leaders involved (They had already testified before Congress and they were currently part of an on-going criminal investigation and would be limited in what they could/would say).
- The intelligence results may or may not have been valuable. The Committee report says no, CIA officials say yes. What is not being debated is whether enhanced methods were necessary and have clearly not lead to a safer world today. (More to the point, torture is outlawed in a treaty to which the US is a signatory.
Additionally, unless the US wishes to adopt the standard line from Russia and China that “this matter is about the internal affairs of another country and we do not meddle in those matters”, using enhanced interrogation makes the US clearly a hypocrite country.)
Abu CIA sprung from the same bad seeds.