From former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff (COL Wilkerson, mentioned previously here in Making Light):
Powell aide: Torture ‘guidance’ from VP
WASHINGTON (CNN) — A former top State Department official said Sunday that Vice President Dick Cheney provided the “philosophical guidance” and “flexibility” that led to the torture of detainees in U.S. facilities.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, who served as former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, told CNN that the practice of torture may be continuing in U.S.-run facilities.
“There’s no question in my mind that we did. There’s no question in my mind that we may be still doing it,” Wilkerson said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
From ADM Stansfield Turner, former head of the CIA:
Ex-CIA boss: Cheney is ‘vice president for torture’
LONDON, England (CNN) — Former CIA chief Stansfield Turner lashed out at Dick Cheney on Thursday, calling him a “vice president for torture” that is out of touch with the American people.
Turner’s condemnation, delivered during an interview with Britain’s ITV network, comes amid an effort by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to pass legislation forbidding any U.S. authority from torturing a prisoner. McCain was tortured as a Vietnam prisoner of war.
Cheney has lobbied against the legislation, prompting Turner to say he’s “embarrassed that the United States has a vice president for torture. I think it is just reprehensible.”
Turner, a retired Navy admiral who headed the intelligence agency from 1977 to 1981 under President Jimmy Carter, stood firm on his earlier remarks Friday and, in a CNN interview, scoffed at assertions that challenging the administration’s strategy aided the terrorists’ propaganda efforts.
“It’s the vice president who is out there advocating torture. He’s the one who has made himself the vice president in favor of torture,” said Turner, who from 1972 to 1974 was president of the Naval War College, a think tank for strategic and national security policy.
The White House, through Cheney, have been arguing against the amendment to a Defense appropriations bill requiring the Army to follow its own field manual in the treatment of prisoners, an amendment that passed the Senate 90-9.
Either Cheney has the permission and direction from Bush, or Bush is so weak that Cheney can do and say what he will regardless of Junior’s wishes.
The White House has also been arguing that the CIA should be allowed to torture prisoners, even if the Army can’t.
What does the CIA think about that?
Speaking at a College of William and Mary forum last year, for example, Burton L. Gerber, a decorated Moscow station chief who retired in 1995 after 39 years with the CIA, surprised some in the audience when he said he opposes torture “because it corrupts the society that tolerates it.” This is a view, he confirmed in an interview with National Journal last week, that is rooted in Albert Camus’s assertion in Preface to Algerian Reports that torture, “even when accepted in the interest of realism and efficacy,” represents “a flouting of honor that serves no purpose but to degrade” a nation in its own eyes and the world’s. “The reason I believe that torture corrupts the torturers and society,” Gerber says, “is that a standard is changed, and that new standard that’s acceptable is less than what our nation should stand for. I think the standards in something like this are crucial to the identity of America as a free and just society.”
The moral dimensions of torture, Gerber adds, are inextricably linked with the practical; aside from the fact that torture almost always fails to yield true or useful information, it has the potential to adversely affect CIA operations. “Foreign nationals agree to spy for us for many different reasons; some do it out of an overwhelming admiration for America and what it stands for, and to those people, I think, America being associated with torture does affect their willingness to work with us,” he says. “But one of my arguments with the agency about ethics, particularly in this case, is that it’s not about case studies, but philosophy. Aristotle says the ends and means must be in concert; if the ends and means are not in concert, good ends will be corrupted by bad means.”
A similar stance was articulated last year by Merle L. Pribbenow, a 27-year veteran of the agency’s clandestine Directorate of Operations. Writing in Studies in Intelligence, the CIA’s in-house journal, Pribbenow recalled that an old college friend had recently expressed his belief that “the terrorist threat to America was so grave that any methods, including torture, should be used to obtain the information we need.” The friend was vexed that Pribbenow’s former colleagues “had not been able to ‘crack’ these prisoners.”
Pribbenow sought an answer by revisiting the arcane case of Nguyen Van Tai, the highest-ranking Vietcong prisoner captured and interrogated by both South Vietnamese and American forces during the Vietnam War. Re-examining in detail the techniques used by the South Vietnamese (protracted torture that included electric shocks; beatings; various forms of water torture; stress positions; food, water, and sleep deprivation) and by the Americans (rapport-building and no violence), Pribbenow reached a stark conclusion: “While the South Vietnamese use of torture did result (eventually) in Tai’s admission of his true identity, it did not provide any other usable information,” he wrote. In the end, he said, “it was the skillful questions and psychological ploys of the Americans, and not any physical infliction of pain, that produced the only useful (albeit limited) information that Tai ever provided.”
So the question remains: Why is the Bush White House so strongly in favor of torture that they’re threatening to veto a defense appropriations bill that merely reaffirms the policies that are supposed to be already in place? Why do they want a policy in place that not only diminishes America’s international prestige, not only makes the job of gathering intelligence more difficult, not only betrays our national values, but in practical terms flat doesn’t work?
What macho fantasy-land do those White House frat boys live in? What are they dragging us into? What are they doing in our names?