What would the destroyed CIA tapes of interrogations have shown? Kevin Drum knows, in at least one case - that of an al-Qaeda operative named Abu Zubaydah. Both James Risen's State of War and Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine make mention of him. The upshot, Kevin writes, is that:
here's what the tapes would have shown: not just that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative, but that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative who was (a) unimportant and low-ranking, (b) mentally unstable, (c) had no useful information, and (d) eventually spewed out an endless series of worthless, fantastical "confessions" under duress. This was all prompted by the president of the United States, implemented by the director of the CIA, and the end result was thousands of wasted man hours by intelligence and and law enforcement personnel.Read the whole post for the background to Kevin's conclusions. You can see why they were destroyed.
Andrew Sullivan, in another must-read post, notes that the extreme Right are just fine with leaving the rule of law and American decency bleeding in a ditch.
It's refreshing, actually. I just listened to Charles say that the torture of terror suspects in 2002 was justified because the United States was flying blind and had no knowledge of what al Qaeda was planning. He won't say "torture", of course, although the law is clear that it is torture. (He and Fox News keep referring to the notion of "harsh interrogation techniques". I think they realized that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" was a little too close to the Gestapo's euphemism for comfort.) And he then said that destroying the tapes was justified because you don't want them coming up on YouTube, do you? So there you have it: the government has a right to torture when it feels like it and the right to destroy the evidence because it would incriminate them and hurt the image of the United States. Again, I keep pinching myself that I am actually hearing these things on the television.This, folks, is your country. Not a single one of the Republican frontrunners would change it (and some would say it's doubtful that the Democratic frontrunners would either). What are you going to do about it? It's your responsibility, after all.
I realize, of course, that that's the actual argument that Bush and Cheney make to themselves behind closed doors. I guess it's refreshing, if a little chilling, to hear a proud defense of lawlessness and violence at the heart of a constitutional republic on national television. But there are several critical and revealing premises behind it. The first is that the United States has effectively withdrawn from the Geneva Conventions. To say that the president can waive them at any time if he sees fit is to say that the United States is not bound by its treaty obligations. The second is that the president is not bound by any law or treaty governing the laws of warfare. Bush and Cheney won't say this because if they did, the jig would be up. The Constitution is extremely clear that the laws of warfare are determined by the Congress, not the president. So it's up to the Beltway Boys to defend the suspension of the rule of law and the legalization of torture as executive prerogatives, in violation of the Constitution. Hey: we're at war. The Constitution is now optional.