Iraq: Use of torture reflects on our character

Written by David Green.


Enough wiith the obsession about how the American people were misled into supporting a war with Iraq. It’s been hashed over and over and over, right?

That’s the opinion of many Americans, but not all of them. Count us among those who will continue to speak about how it all began, because some of the thinking that led to the war is alive and well today.

It’s still heard in the White House as vice president Dick Cheney fights for the right to torture, or as it’s more politely known, the right to practice “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

In November 2001, a high-level al Qaeda member named Ibn al-Shayjkh al-Libi was captured in Pakistan and flown to Egypt where prisoner abuse is common. This was a notable moment in American history—a shift in policy which allowed the CIA to use the “enhanced” methods against al Qaeda detainees.

Al-Libi soon told his interrogators just what they wanted to hear, that al Qaeda had help from the government of Iraq to acquire chemical and biological weapons.

This became the basis for the administration’s pre-war claims about the Iraq/alQaeda connection, the so-called “credible evidence.”

The problem is that al-Libi was lying. Through torture, he fed his captors information he knew they wanted to hear. A report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said as much long before the “credible evidence” became part of administration officials’ run-up to war. Much later, al-Libi admitted that the information was false.

As many intelligence experts point out, torture doesn’t work. You get some truth along with a lot of garbage.

Late last year the Senate overwhelmingly backed a ban on torture, despite the vice president’s strong lobbying and the president’s threat of a veto. The president signed the bill, but added a “signing statement” outlining his interpretation of the law which said, in effect, “I can authorize torture if I want to.”

Sen. John McCain noted that our enemies have no respect for human life and don’t deserve our sympathy, but that doesn’t entitle us to act as they do. McCain, himself a prisoner of war during the Vietnam war, added these words about the change in America’s character:

“This isn’t about who they are. This is about who we are.”

- Jan. 18, 2006
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