It’s ironic that one of the stories pushed off the front page by the
Boston tragedy yesterday involved a report on the Bush administration’s
brutal reaction to a similar tragedy.
New York Times:
A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention
programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the
practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore
ultimate responsibility for it.
The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred
in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of
considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly
involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and
legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our
custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.
Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the
administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on
largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on
detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with
experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a
Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national
consensus on the torture question.
Not only would this make members of the Bush administration as guilty
of war crimes as most realists have suspected, but it has almost
certainly resulted in American deaths. Fighters who believe their
enemies are torturers will fight to the death, rather than risk capture —
meaning that many battles in Iraq and Afghanistan were lengthened by a
torture-caused unwillingness to surrender among combatants.
It’s also very easy to recruit fighters when you’re fighting
torturers, because torture itself is a sort of proof of evil — the good
guys don’t torture.
And, of course, it’s stupid and pointless, as well as counterproductive:
The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and
“damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey
moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to
U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or
persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable
information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a
person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much
of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.
In other words, torture doesn’t magically turn people into truth-tellers.
There are a lot of people who deserve to be in prison over this.
Unfortunately, that will almost certainly never happen. What we can do
is keep this information and use it to make sure we never make the same
mistake again. At heart, the torturer and the torture apologist are
cowards. None of these people should ever be remembered as heroes.