As pressure on the CIA mounts in the wake of a Senate report documenting its extensive, unchecked, and unsupervised use of torture during the Bush administration, current and former intelligence officials are emerging from the sidelines along with Bush administration officials to protest the report’s accusations.
Like the generals from South American juntas, these individuals—who either committed or supported atrocities and terrorism—are trying to change the record or the parameters of the debate to secure their reputations, jobs, and possibly their futures, given calls from politicians and human rights organizations on the Obama administration to prosecute those guilty of state crimes and terrorism.
Both Dick Cheney (who told flagrant lies to engineer an illegal and immoral war in Iraq, and has always glorified state terrorism) and John Brennan (current CIA Director and overseer of Obama’s program of drone murders) have argued that the use of torture was necessary to protect the U.S. in a time of war.
But it was telling that even in his defense of the agency under his charge, John Brennan carefully said that “There was very valuable intelligence obtained from individuals who had been, at some point, subjected to EIT’s [torture]”. He clearly didn’t feel comfortable saying on the record that the intelligence was obtained because of that torture.
There are two responses that debunk this line of ‘logic’ about the necessity of torture.
The first is that outlined by UC Irvine law school dean earlier in the week when he reminded us that “the debate should not be about whether the torture worked. The federal criminal law and the [international] treaty [to which the U.S. is a signatory] have no exception for effective torture”. In other words, sociopaths like Dick Cheney and lifetime members of the rogue intelligence establishment like John Brennan do not get to decide when we trash our laws and throw out our legal obligations by turning to methods of barbarism.
The second argument of course, is that torture, and the array of terrorist methods deployed by the United States in the 13 years since 9/11 have caused far more violence and destruction than during 9/11 and subsequent attacks. There is little to no evidence that our state terrorism prevented further attacks, and much to suggest that it and our wars have generated new ones.
Far more U.S. citizens—most of them military personnel—have died since 9/11 than on that day. Hundreds of thousands of citizens from Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan have been killed by our terroristic wars.
Those ill-judged wars scattered Al Qaeda from its hide-out in Afghanistan across South Asia, the Middle East, the Horn, and North Africa. Our terrorism proved a boon to Al Qaeda and its ilk, losing us sympathy and initiating a recruiting bonanza for the terrorist organizations we were trying to combat.
George Tenent, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden, all practitioners or supporters of state terrorism from their former positions in the CIA, are crawling out of the woodwork to defend the savagery their organization unleashed on people outside the remit of law, oversight, or the conventional bounds of morality. These men should be speaking in public, but not bleating from the safety of talk-shows. Rather, they should be in court, on trial for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity.
Trying to shift the terms of the debate, the Republican Party—the party of umpteen Benghazi investigations into the non-scandal that was Benghazi—cited the cost of investigating the terrorism of our intelligence agencies as a reason for letting their criminal behavior go unpunished. Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein then pointed out that “most of the cost [of the investigation] was incurred by the CIA trying to hide its record”. The CIA is not simply a terrorist organization in the sense that it tortures and murders. It also subverts democratic government by destroying and withholding records about its terrorist activities. In the long run, the CIA and its pathology is a far greater threat to our nation than Al Qaeda ever was or will be.
John Brennan, whining at a news conference after the report was released said, “My fervent hope is that we can put aside this debate and move forward”.
Well, Mr Brennan, maybe we can move forward if those of you who committed torture and other acts of terror, and those of you who ordered such actions and shielded those who committed them are brought to justice. “Moving on” is code for impunity, and if we are a nation of laws, as so many like to claim, those laws must be brought to bear on those who break them.