1) Of all the outrageous things the Bushies did to try to fabricate support for their disastrous invasion of Iraq, the substance of this well-sourced reporting from McClatchy Newspapers and others takes the cake:
"The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime...[F]or most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there. It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003..."
I mean – really. Not only were we committing international torture crimes in the context of a hysterical effort to pry information from detainees who (mostly) knew nothing about al Qaida or their plans; Junior Bush’s puppet masters Cheney and Rumsfeld used the vast resources of their illegal torture apparatus to try to get that last little bullet-point for their tissue of Hussein lies. This represents a new low for the unredeemable slugs who are singularly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, over 4,000 soldiers and our own national self-respect.
The surprising thing is that the sick, desperate effort did not provide results. There isn’t a respectable Islamic terrorist anywhere who would not have given up Hussein in a torture-enhanced heartbeat. I can see it now – "Give me Saddam!", screams the CIA contractor after the 100th hour of sleep deprivation with manacles attached to the ceiling and floor and the poor naked subject drenched with cold water. I’m guessing the reason they didn’t get the answer they wanted is because the detainees were too busy laughing their ass off (thus, no doubt, making the torture less effective). Hussein, the deliberately secular ruler who killed millions of our brothers in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war? Yeah, we’ll be calling him up real soon.
But, try they did, using torture not for "national security" but for their own domestic political cover. These are some sick bastards that just left the White House. They used their powers in reprehensible, irredeemable ways. Be that as it may...
2) ...there is no point in trying to prosecute them criminally. The legal memos that they directed provide the cover for all of them, which is why they were written. As I discussed previously, the legal parsing of the definition of torture is ludicrous on its face, but anyone who followed that legal advice is off the hook, intent-wise. That includes the higher-ups who ordered the lawyers to give them that advice in the first place. The lawyers certainly can’t be prosecuted for the advice or even for being the legal whores they are and continue to be.
It does make you wonder, though... If I get another lawyer to write a memo saying that murder isn’t really murder because the anticipated pain or danger from my acts is not "severe" enough, does that mean I get away with it? Does he?
I’ll tell you one thing – I don’t want to hear any so-called conservatives complain again about law-and-order or people getting off on "technicalities" or light sentences for small-fry sell-one-to-get-one drug dealers. Turn on the radio any time of the day and night and you can hear all manner of wing-nuts making excuses for the worst kind of law-breaking our nation has ever seen. But, it’s a free-for-all now. The ends justify the means, obviously. I expect quotes from the torture memos to pop up any day now in legal briefs all over the country. In fact, I have this issue I’m working on right now, and maybe I’ll squeeze it in to see if it works.
I’m watching Frost/Nixon, finally, tonight, and I know the impact when the criminal legal record is not made clear. Nixon committed crimes on the White House tapes and, because he was neither impeached or prosecuted for his crimes, the historical record has been and will always be vulnerable to Nixon loyalists who will claim that his resignation was the result of a political coup. But Nixon wasn’t smart enough to get a legal memo saying that he had the power to impede the Watergate investigation using the FBI or the CIA, much less bug the Democratic headquarters in the first place. Speaking of Nixon loyalists...
3) ...Dick Cheney is more than a little confused. With no more power in the government than you or I, he thinks he can order a declassification of some memo he probably ordered, reporting about how wonderful and productive the torture sessions were. If there is such a thing, the Obama administration will probably release it and when it does, you’ll see just another self-serving narrative, much like the legal torture memos, ignoring inconvenient facts (like the L.A. plot in 2002 that was supposedly foiled by the brilliant waterboarding of KSM – in March 2003).
The phantom memo, in other words, will mean nothing. But, for now, its supposed existence provides another cheap dodge for Cheney and others who want to avoid the real issue of who we were as a nation under the dirty Bushies and how we can get back to having the moral standing to tell anyone, anywhere in the world how they should behave.