Bush and Torture

by John F. Sullivan, former CIA polygraphy
interrogator in Vietnam.

During Mr. Bush’s press conference on January
19, one of the correspondents asked the president to clarify his position on
torture. “Americans don’t torture,” summed up his response. I don’t know if Mr.
Bush was suggesting that Americans didn’t torture in the past, weren’t currently
engaging in acts of torture, or wouldn’t engage in such acts in the future, but
I do know that during my five years in the U.S. Army and 31 years as a polygraph
examiner/interrogator with the CIA, I became aware that Americans did

Torture and prisoner abuse have been a part of every war in which
America has engaged, at least in my lifetime, but was never a sanctioned policy.
Torture has been to the U.S. Government, and police agencies which use it,
analogous to what sexual misconduct on the part of Catholic priests has been to
the Catholic Church: publicly denied, privately acknowledged, and occasionally
tacitly approved. That changed with 9/11.

Vice President Cheney’s
suggestion that in response to 9/11 we may have to go to the “dark side” of
intelligence in our fight against terrorism, the administration’s declaring al
Qaeda and other terrorists as enemy combatants, not POWs, in order to deny them
protection under the Geneva Convention, and the Department of Justice’s
memorandum of August 2002, which redefined torture, made it clear that “the
gloves were off” and that in the pursuit of terrorists, “anything goes.” Torture
went from being a “dirty little secret” to a condoned policy.

Of the
aforementioned, the most insidious was the Department of Justice’s August 2002
memorandum which defined a coercive technique as torture, “…only when it induced
pain equivalent to what a person experiencing death or organ failure might
suffer.” This is an obscenity.

How does one determine when an individual
being “coerced” has reached the point of being tortured – by the decibel level
of the victim’s screams? I assume the person making that decision is the
interrogator. If so, what training has he or she had in making such assessments?
I would hope that no doctor would ever participate in such an exercise and
contend that any doctor, who would, not only violates his Hippocratic Oath but
is also right down there with the infamous Dr. Mengele.

In analyzing Mr.
Bush’s “Americans don’t torture,” statement, I conclude that he based his
statement on the DOJ’s definition of torture and that those pictured in the Abu
Ghraib photos didn’t meet his criteria for torture. I would like to think that
Mr. Bush does not share Rush Limbaugh’s view that what happened at Abu Ghraib
was nothing more than a fraternity prank, but am concerned that many Americans
might agree with Limbaugh.

My first reaction to those pictures was rage –
rage at the sheer sadism depicted; rage at the stupidity of those who allowed
the torture, rage at the lack of cultural awareness, and lastly, rage over the
fact that those pictures were going to cost American GIs their lives.

Abu Ghraib pictures make a great recruiting poster for al Qaeda, and I posit
that more Muslims were recruited for the Jihad as a result of those pictures
than GIs were saved as a result of information coming from torture

It seems logical to me that an al Qaeda/terrorist fighting in
Iraq, who saw those pictures, might be more motivated as well as more inclined
to fight harder so as not to get captured. Do the battle cries “Remember the
Alamo,” “Remember the Maine,” or “Remember 9/11” ring any bells? How about
“Remember Abu Ghraib?”

What are the implications of those pictures for
any American GIs who might get captured? Can anyone imagine the reaction in
America if similar pictures of American GIs were coming out of Iraq? Were that
the case, I don’t think our military would have to worry about recruitment
shortfalls for as long as the war on terror is waged.

Senator McCain, in
commenting on his ordeal in North Vietnam and in referring to his torturers,
noted that one of the things that sustained him and his fellow POWs was their
belief that, “We are better than this.” The Abu Ghraib photos seem to indicate
that we are not better than we were back then.

The above essay was posted by Elaine at Blog Sisters.  Jeneane brought it to my attention by cross posting it at Allied.  It’s subject matter that requires broad discussion, and I hope it will continue to be cross posted widely.

Posted in Peace and Politics
3 comments on “Bush and Torture
  1. joared says:

    We are better than this … those who know this to be true MUST continue to do their utmost to bring about the changes (thru non-violence) that will return our country to the path of striving toward a higher moral ground … lest we all become like those we say are so objectionable.

  2. Libby Loses a Round in Court

    Vice President Cheney’s former top aide is not entitled to know the identity of an anonymous admini

  3. Wait! No! You mean ddddddubbya speaks with forked tongue?

    Oh, no. My world is shattered. Next thing you know, this guy or some other anti-American commie pinko Taliban sympathizer will be telling us that Cheney was drunk, or maybe was shtupping some strange when in Texas. Hey, a hunting accident, what’s the problem?

    And, no, it isn’t torture. What it is is this: eager and PATRI-DAMN-OTIC American soldiers get all carried away exacting the truth from lethal dangerous enemies of the state, and get them to own up to secrets and plots. You call that torture? Sheeeyut — that’s protecting your right to be an American, you pencil necked faggot geek. Sorry if I offend, but that goes hand in hand with protecting yer freedoms, brother.

    ‘Scyooze me now, I have to attend target practice. Where’s that picture of Osama? Gotta put that on the bullseye.



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