What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.
The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.
It sounds like something out of the 1962 thriller film The Manchurian Candidate. And in a way it is: the idea that Chinese Communists had used inhuman ruthlessness to unlock the secrets of the brain to create the perfect truth technique would be a charming artifact of 1950s American culture, something to show alongside the hula hoop and the Jetson-like hover cars we’re all supposed to be driving in the year 2000. Instead it’s yet another exhibit in Pentagon amnesia.
Doesn’t anyone do any fact checking at the Pentagon? “Officials who drew on the SERE program [in 2002 to design American intelligence adaptation] appear to have been unaware that it had been created as a result of concern about false confessions by American prisoners.” And yet… it’s clear that Presidents Bush and Cheney wanted false information in 2002 to launch the war against Iraq. Whatever “confessions” can be wrung from the Baghdad taxi drivers who got caught up in the arrest sweeps can certainly be used to bully the growing number who oppose the war.
But what do we want, justifications or the truth? Peace in the region or protection from sins of the past? Forget that torture is inhuman: it’s also just an unreliable way of getting accurate information. It’s hard to imagine a realistic scenario where the horrible events of 9/11 could have been stopped by acts of torture by U.S. intelligence or military personnel but it’s could have been stopped if thoughtful analysts had been allowed to share information across agency lines and been focused on true knowledge and understanding.
I must be honest and admit that I’ve always found President Bush’s State of the Union speeches unbearable. The distortions and half-truths are infuriating and the unearned confidence of a draft-dodging rich kid turned failed military adventurer just sends my blood pressure through the roof. I wish I could be detached enough to listen at least to the art of fine speech-writing but the message gets in the way.
Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm’s way. We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.
As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.
Supporting the troops means making sure American lives aren’t being wasted in dead-end wars. Their service and their sacrifice has been too great to continue the lies that have fueled this conflict since the very beginning, starting with the mythical Saddam/Al Qaeda connection and the phantasmic weapons of mass destruction. The current escalation (euphemised as a “surge”) of troop levels is simply an escalation of a badly-run war plan. When will this all end?
*Update*: President Bush has admitted that the Iraq government “fumbled the executions.”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/17/washington/17prexy.html. Meanwhile, the UN puts the “2006 Iraqi death toll at 34,000″:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/17/world/middleeast/17iraq.html. When will Bush admit he’s fumbled this whole war?
A new poll out there shows that only 64% of Americans believe that “the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States”:http://www.rasmussenreports.com/2005/NSA.htm. One wonders what the numbers would have been if “people living in the United States” were replaced by “Americans.” Even so, 64% approval is pretty low in these fear of terrorism times.
Some random chatter on the blogs: Americablog’s “New domestic spying poll numbers are very bad for Bush”:http://americablog.blogspot.com/2005/12/new-domestic-spying-poll-numbers-are.html, Ezra Klein’s “Trust, But Verify”:http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2005/12/trust_but_verif.html & Stephen Kaus at Huffington’s “Popping the Wrong Question”:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-kaus/popping-the-wrong-questio_b_12982.html, Instapundit’s cryptic “I guess Kaus was right”:http://instapundit.com/archives/027738.php and Michelle Malkin’s “Sorry NYTimes: America is OK with the NSA”:http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004176.htm.