Saturday, March 08, 2008

Too Incompetent NOT To Use Torture?

By Cernig

So Bush has refused to rule out torture as a method of interrogation for the CIA and others - pretty much everyone except the Army really. But the spin on this veto is really sick - the Army doesn't get to use torture because it's made up of dumbass kids who wouldn't know how to torture someone properly Perino and McConnell both are pushing this spin. In Perino's words:
The Army Field Manual is a perfectly appropriate document that is important for young GIs, some so young that they’re not even able to legally get a drink in the states where they’re from.
But Think Progress has a different take - the Bush administration are saying that the CIA's folks are too incompetent to interrogate someone without resorting to torture.
ThinkProgress spoke with ret. Army Lt. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) during DESERT SHIELD/STORM. He called Bush’s veto a “mistake”:
I think that he will be sending an unclear message to the troops. … Gen. Petraeus has made it very clear in his letter to the troops that the standard is the Army Field Manual.
Soyster also sharply criticized McConnell’s defense of the techniques:
I would say that if Mike McConnell worked for me, I’d fire him. That is one of the weakest arguments. The Army has a lot of good training, 10-, 18-week courses at the school. And many of our interrogators have been in the Army for 28 years. They’re not 18-year old kids. […]

And the idea, in fact, these techniques [used by] the experts at the CIA — waterboarding, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, whatever those techniques are — it doesn’t take much expertise to use those. You know, dumb guys in the Middle Ages were doing the same thing. The KGB were strong on sleep deprivation. So there’s no skill required from the CIA. They may need those techniques because of their skill level. And they think that they need them.
Soyster added that one of the interrogation experts who had worked for him at the DIA laughed “at the idea that anyone would be so incompetent as to have to use any of these [torture] techniques.” Many interrogators, in fact, don’t even go to the extend that the Field Manual authorizes, “because good interrogators don’t need those techniques.”
I'm surprised that the Bomb Iran crowd, who are in the main an identical set to the Loving Torture set, aren't making more of this possible line of argument - if the CIA and other intel agencies are so incompetent as to need torture, then surely we should all just set aside the last Iran NIE, right?

Update Marty Lederman:
Bush's veto is, in effect, an attempt to retain the option to violate the Geneva Conventions, the Federal Anti-Torture statute, and the McCain Amendment. He would only retain this option, however, because his lawyers have made unreasonable interpretations of U.S. law to conclude that the most egregious of these techniques-- including waterboarding-- are lawful, instead of what they actually are: violations of federal law and breaches of Geneva. is worth recognizing Bush's veto-- and indeed, many other future actions and acts of intransigence-- as part of an endgame strategy. At this point in Bush's Presidency he deals from a position of weakness, not strength. His major goals are to prevent criminal prosecutions of himself (unlikely in any event) and his aides (more likely), to keep the public from finding out much of what he and his advisors actually did and ordered done during his presidency (his fight for immunity for telecom companies who engaged in illegal surveillance should be understood as part of this larger strategy), to entrench the U.S. presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future, and do what he can to ensure that John McCain becomes President, or failing that, Hillary Clinton as a second best solution. He figures that McCain, and, to a lesser extent Clinton, are most likely to continue aspects of his policies and keep troops in Iraq for some time. The longer that the next president continues his policies-- including warrantless surveillance, his interrogation practices, and his war in Iraq, the longer these features will become normalized and/or the next President's problem.

What Bush does not want, above all, is to be followed by a repudiationist or reconstructive Presidency that establishes a new political order through systematic rejection of the themes of his Presidency.
Because then it might all unravel and he'd have to live in exile in Patagonia?

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