Saturday, May 16, 2009

torture, photos, commissions...

On balance I am disappointed that President Obama decided against releasing the torture photos. Short-term I suspect they WOULD inflame some in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, potentially endangering American troops and other interests.

Of course, it really wouldn't be the PHOTOS that do that, but just further confirmation of the fact that the United States under the de facto Bush Administration was torturing people. In the long run I think these photos will get out anyway. Better to release them all at once and get it over with.

I'm less critical on the decision to keep military commissions. Trying terrorism suspects will be difficult. Personally I think the courts can probably handle it. But military commissions with greater legal protections for the accused may be okay. We'll have to see how this goes. But on balance, I think this is a wrong decision - less wrong than the photos, but wrong anyway.

Oh and I'm sorry senior CIA people but your agency's credibility on torture and the reasons for it are totally shot. The TIMING of the most intense torture of people like Abu Zubaida and Khalid Sheik Mohammed - in other words, in late 2002/early 2003, precisely at the time Cheney and his crowd wanted "proof" of the links between Al Qaida and Saddam's Iraq - is just too convenient. Hey, these guys had been coming out with information under normal interrogation techniques, but would NOT admit to Al Qaida/Iraq links (for the excellent reason that there WERE NONE). If one thing has been proven about torture, it is that it is very good at getting the victims to say what the interrogators WANT them to say. So, you waterboard those thugs often enough and ask them over and over, "Al Qaida and Saddam were working together, right? Right?", eventually they will wise up and say "Yes" just to make the torture stop.

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