This conclusion rested upon an understanding of the historical uses of torture: primarily to extract from 'heretics' confessions of their apostasy/heterodoxy (though this purpose was closely followed by punishment: the need of the monarchy to make lese majeste as unpleasant a crime as possible.) No information 'discovered' under torture is particularly reliable, of course. But confessions are at least plausible, while acomplishing the aims of the torturers. Torture is an instrument of power, and is used to enforce, preserve, and expand power, and for no other reasons.
So Joe Conason's piece on Salon mtoday, connecting the dots on "harsh interrogations" came as no particular surprise. It reveals details, however, of the extent to which the Bush/Cheney axis was willing and able to compromise principle, law, public institutions, and the Constitution--a pretty close approximation of what a "bloodless coup d'etat" looks like--to achieve their ends:
May 14, 2009 | The single most pertinent question that Dick Cheney is never asked -- at least not by the admiring interviewers he has encountered so far -- is whether he, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush used torture to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq. As he tours television studios, radio stations and conservative think tanks, the former vice-president hopes to persuade America that only waterboarding kept us safe for seven years.Doesn't get any plainer than that. The alQaeda connection, when all else--WMD/nukes/freedom--failed, was the last hope of Cheney's government for creating a sustainable propaganda around the immoral, illegal, unjust, and ultimately criminal assault by the US on Iraq.
Yet evidence is mounting that under Cheney’s direction, "enhanced interrogation" was not used exclusively to prevent imminent acts of terror or collect actionable intelligence -- the aims that he constantly emphasizes -- but to invent evidence that would link al-Qaida with Saddam Hussein and connect the late Iraqi dictator to the 9/11 attacks.
In one report after another, from journalists, former administration officials and Senate investigators, the same theme continues to emerge: Whenever a prisoner believed to possess any knowledge of al-Qaida’s operations or Iraqi intelligence came into American custody, CIA interrogators felt intense pressure from the Bush White House to produce evidence of an Iraq-Qaida relationship (which contradicted everything that U.S. intelligence and other experts knew about the enmity between Saddam’s Baath Party and Osama bin Laden’s jihadists). Indeed, the futile quest for proof of that connection is the common thread running through the gruesome stories of torture from the Guantánamo detainee camp to Egyptian prisons to the CIA's black sites in Thailand and elsewhere.
Perhaps the sharpest rebuke to Cheney's assertions has come from Lawrence Wilkerson, the retired Army colonel and former senior State Department aide to Colin Powell, who says bluntly that when the administration first authorized "harsh interrogation" during the spring of 2002, "its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaida."
Years ago, when Bill Clinton left office, among the Busheviks' first acts was to replace the carpet in the Oval Office. It was on that carpet, the buzz went, that Clinton had spilled his dna in his dalliances with Monica Lewinsky, and the Busheviks were at pains "not to get any on 'em. If Clinton may have left a bit of spermatic residue in the threads of the Oval Office carpet (under the desk, allegedly), the Cheney/Bush presidency had so soaked the replacement in the blood, and pain, and feces of innocents that perhaps nothing less than flames can cleanse.