Perhaps this week will involve some kind of conversation about accountability for the torture that was carried out by members of our intelligence community and armed forces during the presidency of George W. Bush. I hope so. But let’s be clear at the outset about one thing.
We have a confession.
“I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques.” – Dick Cheney, Valentine’s Day, 2010.
“Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” the former president said during an appearance at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, according to the Grand Rapids Press.
“I’d do it again to save lives,” he added.
There is a difference between those two confessions. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was believed to be the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and someone who, therefore, excelled in creating deadly sleeper cells bent on carrying out large suicidal attacks that cause huge casualties and incalculable economic and moral damage to their victims.
Torture is wrong, and it is generally ineffective, leading more often to false confessions and bogus leads than to solid, actionable intelligence. But if the Bush administration had limited itself to torturing Khlaid Sheikh Mohammed, we wouldn’t be seeing the Senate Intelligence Committee releasing a report on torture. We never would have had to suffer through the Abu Ghraib humiliation. You can call President Bush’s confession a modified limited hangout. He admitted to torturing someone who most people would feel had information that could prevent a major terrorist attack, while taking no responsibility for the hundreds of other people who were tortured as a result of his policies and direction.
Dick Cheney, on the other hand, took responsibility for all of it, because he freely admitted that he was “a big supporter” of torturing people. And letting Dick Cheney off the hook for that means that we have to let everyone downstream from him off the hook for it, too. Otherwise, our justice would be worse than no justice at all.
So, anyway, maybe Bush was misled about what the CIA was doing. I’m not sure I believe that, but I hear the report will make that case. But Cheney was definitely not deceived. He ordered it and he cheered them on.
Remember that this week when people are talking about this issue.