Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine

Sinking deeper and deeper

Further undermining the Bush administration's argument that what happened at Abu Ghraib was the "wrongdoing of a few," a trio of reports from Reuters show that in fact, lots of folks in the US government think that abusing and torturing foreigners is a legitimate form of intelligence-gathering. First, Will Dunham on today's Armed Services Committee hearings:

Top Pentagon officials conceded on Thursday some of the interrogation methods approved for use by the U.S. military on Iraqi prisoners may violate the Geneva Convention governing treatment of war prisoners....
Those methods included sleep and sensory deprivation, forcing prisoners to assume "stressful" body positions for up to 45 minutes, threatening them with guard dogs, keeping them isolated for longer than 30 days, and dietary manipulation.

While these methods fall short of the atrocities that have come to light, as officially sanctioned techniques, approved by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, they are a significant step in that direction, one that already took us outside the bounds set by international law and put us on the slippery slope to outright torture.

Meanwhile, Tabassum Zakaria reports that the CIA has adopted unspecified "high-pressure" interrogation techniques since 9/11:

The CIA was granted permission in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to use high-pressure interrogation tactics against high-level al Qaeda leaders in the hopes of thwarting further attacks, U.S. intelligence experts said on Thursday.
An army of government lawyers was involved in vetting interrogation techniques allowed against al Qaeda leaders in U.S. custody, experts said.

Especially chilling here is the passive "was allowed" and the faceless "army of government lawyers." These barbaric policies are being set forth not by elected officials but by shadowy figures from somewhere in the bowels of of the intelligence community.

Finally, Senator Zell Miller announced that he, like his colleague James Inhofe, thinks people should not get worked up about rape, torture and murder, as long as it is committed by Americans:

Zell Miller, the only U.S. Senate Democrat who has endorsed President Bush for re-election, denounced on Thursday "this national act of contrition" over the abuse of Iraqi inmates.
"Why is it that some in this country still don't get that we are at war -- a war against terrorists who are plotting to kill us every day?" asked Miller of Georgia.

Deep breath.

I've already lost the capacity to be shocked by the moral bankruptcy of government officials. That they are cynical, power-hungry opportunists almost goes without saying. But even throwing out the moral repugnance of torture, there are two practical arguments that ought to appeal to even the most callous war hawk. First, as has already become clear, these techniques blow up in your face if anyone finds out about them. Since our whole rationale for the war in Iraq rests on our supposed moral superiority to Saddam Hussein, anything that might cast that superiorirty into doubt would have to be viewed as an extremely risky practice. Second, torture produces lousy intelligences. Back to Dunham's article:

The former official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that was true despite widespread acknowledgment in the intelligence community that such measures were not an effective or reliable means of gaining accurate information.
He said first-hand experience had taught veteran intelligence officers that the use or threat of extreme measures made suspects so scared they would testify to almost anything they thought the interrogators wanted to hear.

So not only are our leaders evil, they are stupid as well.