WE DO NOT TORTURE TERROR SUSPECTS.
~ George W. Bush (November 7, 2005)As one of the flew bloggers who wrote extensively about the Bush Torture Regime and enthusiastically supported Barack Obama, the most bitter pill of his first term is that he has pretended this dark chapter in the history of our once great democracy never happened. That is okay, in a pretzel logical sort of way, because this decision was a result of him wanting to take office in a spirit of bipartisanship without the distraction of what would be viewed by Republicans as a partisan prosecutorial witch hunt. So while Obama certainly didn't take the high road, I am able to rationalize the road that he did take in a larger context.
Meanwhile, the door to making anyone, let alone George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Addington and John Yoo, accountable for their crimes -- crimes that are unambiguously delineated in international law and the Geneva Conventions -- was quietly and effectively slammed shut last month when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the only two cases under investigation relating to the torture regime were being closed without charges being filed.
The timing of the announcement would seem to be perfect because the press corps was sunning its collective backside in the Hamptons during the lull before the Republican and Democratic conventions, but Holder could have made the announcement at midnight on New Years Eve in Times Square and it would have been greeted with a practiced yawn.
This is because many Americans continue to believe that using Nazi-like torture methods against terrorists is okey-dokey although its effectiveness has been discredited, including by World War II military intelligence veterans who said a carrot often eventually elicited valuable information from German and Japanese soldiers while a stick did not. Furthermore, the torture regime dealt a body blow to America's standing aboard that has not been restored, Obama's good acts notwithstanding, while most of the mainstream media studiously ignored years of horrifying reports emanating from Iraq, Afghanistan, the network of so-called dark CIA prison sites and, of course, Guantánamo Bay.
The two cases involved the deaths of an Afghan detainee and an Iraqi citizen, and mark the end of a contentious three-year investigation by the Justice Department over whether CIA personnel and their superiors should be held accountable for the abuse of prisoners in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Justice did not say publicly which cases had been under investigation, but officials previously confirmed the identities of the prisoners as militant suspect Gul Rahman, who died in 2002 after being shackled to a concrete wall in near-freezing temperatures at a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit, and Manadel al-Jamadi, who died in CIA custody in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where his corpse was infamously photographed (above) packed in ice and wrapped in plastic.
Holder, in asserting that the admissible evidence was insufficient to obtain criminal convictions, disingenuously suggested that the end of the investigation should not be seen as a moral exoneration of those involved in the prisoners' treatment and deaths, but it certainly will have that effect for Bush, Cheney and other administration heavies.
"It is hugely disappointing that with ample evidence of torture, and documented cases of some people actually being tortured to death, that the Justice Department has not been able to mount a successful prosecution and hold people responsible for these crimes," said Elisa Massimino, president of Human Rights First. "The American people need to know what was done in their name."
Massimino said her group’s own investigation of the prisoners' deaths showed that initial inquiries were bungled by military and intelligence officers in charge of prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would suggest that this was done deliberately.
Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee has wrapped up its own three-year investigation of the CIA interrogation program, but its report is still classified and most certainly will remain so until after the election. In April, responding to a book by a former CIA official asserting that brutal interrogations had produced the intelligence that helped locate Osama bin Laden, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, called that claim "misguided and misinformed." Feinstein has been one of the very few politicians of any stripe to express outrage over the torture regime.
At the end of the day, no one has been prosecuted for torture in the U.S., although there have been some unsuccessful efforts abroad.
This includes CIA officials who deliberately destroyed videotapes of interrogations, while calls for a so-called truth commission have been rejected. But irony of ironies, former CIA officer John C. Kirakou is awaiting trial on criminal charges that he told journalists the identities of CIA officers who participated in brutal interrogations, some of which included near drowning through waterboarding.