Thursday, September 07, 2006

George W. Bush Is a Liar. What Else Is New?

My first full week of teaching with students back at school began on September 5. (Until I find a permanent full-time staff position, I've been assigned to team-teach English with the Academic Support teacher at a Bronx high school.) I've also started my graduate coursework at Lehman College for the fall semester, and between the two of those there hasn't been much time for blogging.

I did read some of the reports yesterday about Pres. Bush's speech revealing the full Stalinist platform: suspected terrorists to have "trials" conducted by military tribunals in which defendants could be denied the right to see the evidence against them, and in which "evidence" gained through coercive interrogation procedures could legally be used to convict defendants; public acknowledgment that the C.I.A. has secret "black site" prisons in unknown locations worldwide; that 14 "high-value" prisoners out of the indeterminate larger number held in these gulag stations are being transferred to Guantanamo Bay; and that these 14 individuals are being given "prisoner-of-war" status. Of course, what this all means is anybody's guess. Bush says:

These men will be held in a high-security facility at Guantanamo. The International Committee of the Red Cross is being advised of their detention, and will have the opportunity to meet with them. Those charged with crimes will be given access to attorneys who will help them prepare their defense -- and they will be presumed innocent. While at Guantanamo, they will have access to the same food, clothing, medical care, and opportunities for worship as other detainees. They will be questioned subject to the new U.S. Army Field Manual, which the Department of Defense is issuing today. And they will continue to be treated with the humanity that they denied others.

Not terribly credible, since literally thousands of pages of eyewitness and detainee testimony have all indicated that detainees at Guantanamo have been and are being tortured, brutalized, dehumanized, and routinely denied the most basic form of treatment that could be considered humane.

And somehow I cannot muster up much faith in the sincerity or integrity or honesty of a man who declares:

I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it -- and I will not authorize it.

just a few moments after he has said this [all emphasis mine]:

We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking. As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful. I cannot describe the specific methods used -- I think you understand why -- if I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning, and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.

and this:

... [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] was questioned by the CIA using these procedures [the ones used on Zubaydah] and he soon provided information that helped us stop another planned attack on the United States.

There are so many contradictions, qualifiers, coy phrasings, and just plain absurdities in the above text that it boggles my mind how anyone with an IQ over 90 could believe a word of it. Why would anyone need "training" to "resist" interrogation unless his physical and/or psychological pain threshold was being exceeded beyond the ability to endure? And if an "alternative set of procedures" had to be forceful enough to overcome a person's resistance to another set of procedures, would it not have to be forceful enough to cause the person to experience unbearable agony? How could such an "alternative set of procedures" be effective unless this were so? What kind of assurance is it to tell us that the "Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and found them to be lawful" when we know that this president's Justice Department is filled with sycophants like John Yoo, who thinks that anything the president does is lawful if he holds his actions to be relevant to his war-making powers or national security policies? And why argue that these "alternative" interrogation procedures are "necessary" if they are, as the president says they are, "safe and lawful"? If the procedures are safe (not harmful, not torture) and lawful (unquestionably permissible under U.S. domestic law and international law to which the United States is a signatory), why would it even be an issue whether said procedures were "necessary" or not? Why does Bush have to try so hard to convince Americans that "alternative interrogation procedures" used on suspected terrorists are "necessary" if it's already understood and known that those procedures violate no law and harm no one?

While pondering these questions, it might also be useful to know that Bush lied about the usefulness of the information gained in C.I.A interrogations of "high-value" detainees like Abu Zubaydah.

First, according to Ron Suskind, Abu Zubaydah didn't clam up because he was "trained to resist interrogation," but because he has the mental capacity of a retarded child. Second, the idea that Abu Zubaydah's interrogation tipped off the U.S. to the existence of Ramzi bin Al Shibh is just an outright lie. A Nexis search for "Ramzi Binalshibh" between September 11, 2001 and March 1, 2002--the U.S. captured Abu Zubaydah in March 2002--turns up 26 hits for The Washington Post alone. Everyone involved in counterterrorism knew who bin Al Shibh was. Now-retired FBI Al Qaeda hunter Dennis Lormel told Congress who Ramzi bin Al Shibh was in February 2002. Abu Zubaydah getting waterboarded and spouting bin Al Shibh's name did not tell us anything we did not already know.

Of course, most Americans don't have access to Nexis. And most Americans don't remember--and can't be expected to remember--newspaper coverage of Al Qaeda for a seven-month stretch between the attacks and Abu Zubaydah's capture. Bush is exploiting that ignorance to tell the American people an outright lie in order to convince them that we need to torture people. As Bush once said in another context, if this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.

Andrew Sullivan has further details on what constitutes "safe and lawful" interrogation in Bushworld.

No comments: