Posted by Brad @ 5:42 pm on August 25th 2009

The Scott Horton Take

If you only read one fly-by of the torture report, read this one. He makes seven broad observations, all of which are worth reading. The one that’s not redundant with most of what you’ve already read:

Opposition from within. For years the CIA has said that CIA personnel would be demoralized and the reputation of the agency would be damaged by disclosure of the contents of the report. But the report documents just the opposite. The Inspector General’s review was launched by complaints coming from valued senior employees who felt that the Bush Program (as John Yoo has dubbed it) was wrong. One of them actually expresses his worry that those involved will be hauled before the World Court at some point because of [and that’s redacted!] This makes clear that good employees of the agency opposed the Bush Program, were vocal in their opposition, and focused concern on the program’s illegality. The OLC memos were intended to silence these complaints, but they only accentuated the agency’s morale problems by enmeshing it in obviously illegal and immoral conduct. By contrast, the number of CIA personnel involved in pushing it through and supporting it is tiny—probably not many more than two dozen—though their voices are heard very loudly. It’s interesting that in a stream of appearances by CIA personnel on TV yesterday—Tyler Drumheller, Jack Rice, Bob Baer and others—all said that a criminal investigation was a good idea. The official spokesman of the CIA torture team remains, as for the last seven years, David Ignatius.

One of the many Big Lies surrounding this issue is the fantasy that it’s ivory tower liberals who oppose torture but that it’s the Protectors of America who are forced to get their hands dirty and who “knows what has to be done.”

That is, in a word, bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit.

The people who engage in torture tend to either be grunts given a completely slack leash and thrown into a lawless, vindictive environment for which there is no oversight and, at best, ambiguous direction. Or civilian contractors. Or political hacks. Or people sucking up to said political hacks.

The true professionals—the career interrogators, the guys who actually have track records of gleaning valuable intelligence from detainees—are often the guys most opposed to idiotic and wanton prisoner abuse, because it is A. Illegal, B. Immoral, and C. Bad for Business, in the sense that it doesn’t generate meaningful intelligence, and is indeed more often than not utterly counterproductive to that aim.

It’s the armchair America First crowds and the ideological (and idiotical) Jack Bauer wannabe chickenhawks who have created a complete fantasy about what torture means and does. In the case of the Bush Administration, it was literally a handful of guys, Dick Cheney chief among them, who decided by themselves, based on nothing but their own gut feelings, that torture works, and then demanded that the professionals change their tactics to meet their fantasy. This was not professionals doing what had to be done. This was, almost literally, Dick Cheney telling them that he knew best what had to be done, and then leaning on the entire intelligence and military apparatus of the United States to do it his way.

That cannot be stressed enough.

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