Obama: 'We've got to stop torturing people' Cheney: 'If we don't torture some A-rabs, we're all gonna die!!!!'
Dick Cheney: still evil
In an address at the National Archives, President Obama defended his proposal to close the prison at Guantanamo and detain many of its inmates in federal prisons in the US, as well as his decision to end the practice of torture:
Faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions... instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford.In a rebuke to senators who voted overwhelmingly against his plan to house Guantanamo detainees in the US, Obama pointed out that there has never been an escape from a federal supermax prison. All told, he made an effective case for fighting terrorism without resorting to torture and without abrogating our commitments as set forth in the Geneva Conventions.
In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by the American people who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach -- one that rejected torture and one that recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable -- a framework that failed to rely on our legal traditions and time-tested institutions, and that failed to use our values as a compass. And that's why I took several steps upon taking office to better protect the American people.
First, I banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States of America.
I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence. I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What's more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counterterrorism efforts -- they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.
Shortly after Obama finished speaking, former Vice President Cheney took the stage at the American Enterprise Institute to defend torture, indefinite detention without trial, and warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.
Not surprisingly, Cheney's address was full of the bile and divisive combativeness that have long been a hallmark of his political broadsides.
And lies. Full of the bile, combativeness, and lies that Cheney is known for. Roy Edroso of the Village Voice caught a couple of Cheney's fabrications:
He said, "I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program," and claimed it "prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people." He also said his enemies were trying to smear him and his friends in the CIA with Abu Ghraib.Huh? Torturing people saved hundreds of thousands of lives? I don't think Cheney can even begin to defend that statement. One thing's for sure, though: thanks to Bush and Cheney, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed in Iraq:
Cheney professed outrage that "US taxpayer dollars will be used to support" the relocation of detainees proposed by Obama, as if their detention had previously been funded by a lottery or collection taken up at Bohemian Grove. He also suggested that the detainees are supervillains who will escape from our puny maximum security prisons.
Edroso caught a bit of Cheney's fibbing, but when the fact-checkers from McClatchy Newspapers went looking for lies, they really hit the motherlode:
Cheney quoted the Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair , as saying that the information gave U.S. officials a "deeper understanding of the al Qaida organization that was attacking this country."And so on. Lie after lie after lie. As he did throughout the Bush presidency, Cheney distorted facts and fabricated evidence to support the notion that the only way to defend Americans from despots and terrorists is to spy on Americans, start wars that kill tens and even hundreds of thousands, and torture people in secret prisons. In his view, the terrorists present an even greater threat than Hitler did in 1941, and the only way to defeat them is to become more like the Soviet Union.
In a statement April 21 , however, Blair said the information "was valuable in some instances" but that "there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is that these techniques hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."
A top-secret 2004 CIA inspector general's investigation found no conclusive proof that information gained from aggressive interrogations helped thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to one of four top-secret Bush-era memos that the Justice Department released last month.
FBI Director Mueller Robert Muller told Vanity Fair magazine in December that he didn't think that the techniques disrupted any attacks.
Cheney said that the Bush administration "moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and their sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks."
The former vice president didn't point out that Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman al Zawahri , remain at large nearly eight years after 9-11 and that the Bush administration began diverting U.S. forces, intelligence assets, time and money to planning an invasion of Iraq before it finished the war in Afghanistan against al Qaida and the Taliban .
There are now 49,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan fighting to contain the bloodiest surge in Taliban violence since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, and Islamic extremists also have launched their most concerted attack yet on neighboring, nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Cheney denied that there was any connection between the Bush administration's interrogation policies and the abuse of detainee at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, which he blamed on "a few sadistic guards . . . in violation of American law, military regulations and simple decency."
However, a bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report in December traced the abuses at Abu Ghraib to the approval of the techniques by senior Bush administration officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Cheney accused Obama of "the selective release" of documents on Bush administration detainee policies, charging that Obama withheld records that Cheney claimed prove that information gained from the harsh interrogation methods prevented terrorist attacks.
"I've formally asked that (the information) be declassified so the American people can see the intelligence we obtained," Cheney said. "Last week, that request was formally rejected."
However, the decision to withhold the documents was announced by the CIA , which said that it was obliged to do so by a 2003 executive order issued by former President George W. Bush prohibiting the release of materials that are the subject of lawsuits.
Cheney said that only "ruthless enemies of this country" were detained by U.S. operatives overseas and taken to secret U.S. prisons.
A 2008 McClatchy investigation, however, found that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees captured in 2001 and 2002 in Afghanistan and Pakistan were innocent citizens or low-level fighters of little intelligence value who were turned over to American officials for money or because of personal or political rivalries.
Cheney said that, in assessing the security environment after 9-11, the Bush team had to take into account "dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists."
Cheney didn't explicitly repeat the contention he made repeatedly in office: that Saddam cooperated with al Qaida , a linkage that U.S. intelligence officials and numerous official inquiries have rebutted repeatedly.
The late Iraqi dictator's association with terrorists vacillated and was mostly aimed at quashing opponents and critics at home and abroad.
The last State Department report on international terrorism to be released before 9-11 said that Saddam's regime "has not attempted an anti-Western terrorist attack since its failed plot to assassinate former President ( George H.W.) Bush in 1993 in Kuwait."
It now looks as though the Republican Party is lining up behind Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh, and most party leaders are ready to openly endorse practices like warrantless wiretapping, secret detention without trial, torture, and waging wars of aggression. Which means that President Obama must now fight on two fronts: abroad against terrorists unconcerned with the rule of law, human rights, and human life, and at home against Republicans unconcerned with the rule of law, human rights, and human life.
Bear in mind that we do not yet know the full extent of the torture that was used on detainees at Guantanamo. Air Force Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, who has been assigned to defend one of the detainees, says that waterboarding is just the tip of the iceberg:
Remember when former military officers, including Republican Senators McCain and Graham, told the Bush administration that torturing detainees would make it more likely that American soldiers would be tortured? The Taliban recently announced that they have waterboarded three American soldiers. I have to assume that Cheney and his apologists think that's OK.
Inconveniently for Cheney, four terrorists were arrested yesterday after an investigation that involved no torture, illegal wiretaps, or wars of aggression.
Cheney's defenders have been claiming that a soon to be released Pentagon report indicates that one in seven former Guantanamo detainees has returned to terrorism. Turns out, that's not exactly true. While reporters who have seen a draft of the report say that it does say that one in seven former detainees have since been tied to terrorism, they point out that the overwhelming majority of Guantanamo detainees had not previously been involved in terrorism.
In other words, it appears that detainees became drawn to terrorism after being detained for years without trial and, in some cases, tortured. And we should bear in mind the fact that we don't yet know how directly those former detainees were involved in terrorism, and we won't know how accurate the Pentagon report is until it's been vetted by independent analysts.
(cross posted at appletree)