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For Bush & Co. Torture DID work

I keep seeing people debating whether or not torture works, and in particular whether it produces “actionable intelligence”. An example of this is liberal pundits trying to respond to Cheney’s recent assertion that torture produced intelligence that prevented a terrorist attack.

You’d think by now we would have seen the Bush administration framing the debate so many times (and so often succeeding) that we would not let them get away with it again (especially now that they are not in power). It doesn’t actually matter if torture “worked”. To Bush and Cheney, it absolutely did work. Their goal was not to find out the truth, their goal was get evidence that would allow them to invade Iraq.

Torture is notorious for getting the person being tortured to say anything you want them to say. Waterboarding was used extensively during the Korean war to get American prisoners to confess to war crimes. The Chinese did not care whether these confessions were true; they only wanted the confessions for use in propaganda.

So in order to get their propaganda, Bush and Cheney authorized the only technique that was guaranteed to get them what they sorely needed. The use of torture provided “intelligence” that allowed them to invade Iraq, which they desperately wanted to do from day one of their administration. Beyond that, any arguments about the effectiveness of torture are simply rationalization.

Unfortunately, once they started using torture, they couldn’t just stop using it once they got what they wanted. That would be tantamount to admitting that it doesn’t actually work. So they had to keep using it — even though it was clearly giving them information that was no good.

What is truly evil about all this is that they weren’t using torture to save us from any terrorist attacks. If they had, then it would be important to know whether it works or not. They were using torture for political reasons. And, for them, it worked like a charm.

UPDATE: Good rant over at Prose Before Hos. Here’s just a sample:

What kind of f**king country do you live in where you have to debate whether torturing someone is a crime? What kind of country do you live in when you can spend 3 years prosecuting the President for a consensual sexual act but won’t prosecute a President for authorizing illegal wiretaps and torturing people? What kind of country do you live in where the supposed ’spiritual’ and ‘religious’ leaders think it’s OK to torture non-Christians?

UPDATE 2: BLOWBACK! You just knew this was going to happen. How can anyone doubt the damage done to the US (both past and future) by our use of torture? How can we repair this damage?



  1. Untravel wrote:

    In addition to torture ‘working’ at extracting false confessions, torture also ‘works’ as a terror tactic. For example, despotic regimes use it to terrify their own population into submission. For the neocons, I imagine part of torture’s appeal wasn’t only the desire to extract (false) confessions, but also the desire to ‘act tough’, ‘take the gloves off’, and try to terrify Al-Qaeda etc.

    Torture is the terrorism that states do. With torture, I think it’s important to keep in mind its not just the means that are immoral, but also the ends. So even if torture did actually ‘work’ in the way they claimed, it would also serves these other ends, and would therefore still be an atrocity.

    Sorry, don’t mean to lecture or anything. Just a thought.

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 4:08 am | Permalink
  2. Daniel wrote:

    I agree with the OP analysis 100%. Concise and well written. Thanks.

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  3. Daniel wrote:

    Oh, and I want to add that there were lots of Democrats in DC who fully understood what was going on and were quite complicit (Diane Feinstien, for one). The great thing about being a Democrat during the Bush years was that they could have their cake and eat it too. They could wink and nod as I call it. They could pretend that it was all so horrible knowing that it was going to happen anyway. Which is why there has been and are going to remain a lot of unhappy liberals out there. At the end of the day the Washington power structure as a set of institutions wanted this to happen. Because they knew that once it happened, Bessie couldn’t be put back into the barn again.

    One of the more deeply hypocritical positions of the Obama administration is claiming that the CIA operatives should not be held guilty for the crimes they committed while at the same time supporting the deportation of a Nazi security guard who has been charged with that exact crime in Germany.

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink