Although we are used to cynical politicians distorting the truth and deliberately misleading the public, ex Vice President Dick Cheney’s pre-9-11 anniversary speech about the US use of torture was notable for what appears jaw-dropping effrontery.
According to Cheney as quoted in the Guardian report, on the very few occasions the “enhanced interrogation” was used it was not torture and gave “phenomenal results” when administered to captured al Qaeda leaders. In Cheney’s words: “The notion that somehow the United States was wildly torturing anybody is not true”, he said. “One of the most controversial techniques is water-boarding – ….three people were water-boarded. Not dozens, not hundreds. Three. And the one who was subjected to it most often was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and it produced phenomenal results for us”…. “helped produce the intelligence that allowed us to get bin Laden” That this led to the discovery of bin Laden several years later in a place where he had been for months and possibly years …and that his discovery came years after the water-boarding, requires a degree of naïve credulity, but far more serious is the implication that the US has hardly been party to torture eg only three water-boarded????
Since Dick Cheney may genuinely actually not know how to seek for the relevant information and may no longer have no access to trained advisers might I suggest he start with an article by Jeffrey Kaye as a Truthout Report in which Kaye documents a number of reports showing in embarrassing detail how water was used as a torture by the US. For example at Guantanamo suspects had their heads forced into a flushing toilet while being punched in the stomach and in another instance had high pressure water forced up the nose. Because Kaye names some of the victims and cites a number of such reports from different facilities it does not take much mathematical skill to rapidly far exceed the number of three thus tortured. That the described torture is not technically water boarding but a variant is hardly any excuse. Kaye’s article is dated Tuesday 2nd August 2011 and is entitled : Despite New Denials by Rumsfeld, Evidence Shows US Military Used Waterboarding-Style Torture. He also wrote a more extensive article giving far more detail which Dick Cheney might usefully read before leaving himself open to charges of making deliberately misleading statements. The second article is entitled: More Evidence of Water Torture “Depravity” in Rumsfeld’s Military by: Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout | Report
While Cheney has the slight excuse that he is now removed from some of his direct sources of information – and while his President George W was famously ill-informed, these latest comments make Cheney appear to be either intentionally making a very clumsy effort at attempting to deceive or more hopefully at the very least, seem unaware of virtually all the official reports on the topic that are now common knowledge to anyone with even a modicum of exposure to standard sources.
To give an idea of what is now common knowledge we look at the report of Human Rights Watch 2009
• Descriptions of abuse, torture, and murder at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison match experiences of detainees in prisons from Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan, Brooklyn, and elsewhere around the world.
• Most of the reported 108 deaths of prisoners in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan have been caused by torture and abuse.
• Since September 11, 2001, the CIA has sent between 100 and 150 suspects overseas for interrogation. The U.S. government euphemistically refers to the practice as “extraordinary rendition,” but it is commonly being called “outsourcing torture.” Since hundreds of such flights carrying suspects have now been admitted it strains our credibility to believe that only three prisoners were thus treated.
• A March 19, 2005, article in The Guardian reported, “A March 2005 article in the Washington Post reveals that the U.S. Army and the CIA agreed on the ghost detainees at Abu Ghraib.
Kate Stonehill writing in National Journal on 12 July 2011 referred to the case of Maher Arar . “On September 26, 2002, Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian engineer, ended his vacation in Tunisia with his wife and two children to return to Canada, his homeland since the age of 17. During a layover at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, U.S. immigration officials pulled him aside, questioned him for eight hours, handcuffed him, and told him he did not have the right to an attorney. Maher was questioned, strip searched, vaccinated, and eventually put on a plane and sent to a Syrian jail where he languished for almost a year in a 3-foot-by-6-foot underground cell. He was tortured by Syrian officials trying to obtain information that he did not have”.
He has received an apology and compensation from the Canadian government but was denied the right to sue the US government on the grounds that it might endanger national security! Reputation damage I could understand but the threat that an innocent person unjustly treated is a danger to national security is rather more obscure. Numerous cases of apparently innocent people being accorded similar treatment are now coming to light and the number of destinations for such treatment grows each year. For example this year for the first time it has been admitted that Libya also cooperated in this torture by proxy with both the US and UK governments.
Although the Maher Arar is probably the most high profile case this actually pales into insignificance against what is known to have happened to many others. For example in the above mentioned Human Rights Watch report there are eye-witness reports from members of the 82nd Parachute Regiment serving in Iraq.
While many remember Lynndie England as the low-ranking reservist involved in the embarrassing degrading photos showing the humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, not so well remembered is that on 24 September in an article entitled Whistle blowers Describe Routine and Serious Abuse, Jim Lobe reminded us that this was no isolated incident. Quoting Human Rights Watch he stated: “two sergeants and a captain in one of the U.S. Army’s most decorated combat units have come forward with accounts of routine, systematic and often severe beatings committed against detainees at a base near Fallujah from 2003 through 2004.
According to their testimony, featured in a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), beatings and other forms of torture were often either ordered or approved by superior officers and took place on virtually a daily basis. The soldiers, all of whom had also been deployed to Afghanistan before coming to Iraq, testified that the same techniques were used in both countries.
The beatings were so severe that they resulted in broken bones “every other week” at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mercury, where detainees would ordinarily be held for three or four days before being transferred to Abu Ghraib. In one case, an Army cook broke the leg of a detainee with a metal baseball bat, according to one of the sergeants quoted in the report, entitled “Leadership Failure.”
Residents of Fallujah, an insurgent stronghold since the 2003 invasion, referred to the unit as “The Murderous Maniacs,” because of their treatment of detainees, according to the report.”
Since the same article pointed out that the three soldiers were continually obstructed by Cheney and Bush when the soldiers attempted to draw attention to the events, it is difficult to believe that Cheney now has no recollection that this even happened and has reduced his recall of torture to three water boarded terrorists who were persuaded to release valuable information.