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Yes, Senator, It IS Like a Banana Republic

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But not for the reasons that Senator Specter would think. The Senate Armed Services Committee has released a newly declassified report that details the history of the Bush administration's torture policy. The first page contains three very good points:
(U) The collection of timely and accurate intelligence is critical to the safety of U.S. personnel deployed abroad and to the security of the American people here at home. The methods by which we elicit intelligence information from detainees in our custody affect not only the reliability of that information, but our broader efforts to win hearts and minds and attract allies to our side. (U) Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are taught to expect Americans to abuse them. They are recruited based on false propaganda that says the United States is out to destroy Islam. Treating detainees harshly only reinforces that distorted view, increases resistance to cooperation, and creates new enemies. In fact, the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" cited "pervasive anti U.S. sentiment among most Muslims" as an underlying factor fueling the spread of the global jihadist movement. Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008 that "there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq - as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat - are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo." (U) The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of "a few bad apples" acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority. This report is a product of the Committee's inquiry into how those unfortunate results came about.
From there, it gets more disturbing, with accounts of many military leaders and intelligence experts who had issued warnings about the illegality and inefficacy of the use of these new interrogation techniques. But, of course, the Bushies never did let disapproval get in the way of their agenda. The report's final conclusion:
The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.
And what followed was an erosion of our national conscience and our reputation in the world. Little Lynndie England sat in a prison cell for following orders, while Rumsfeld sat comfortably at home. Yesterday, reacting to the prospect of an independent commission to investigate the Bush administration's torture policies, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) said that "going after the prior administration sounds like something they do in Latin America in banana republics." No, Senator Specter, everything in the Armed Services Committee report sounds like what they do in a banana republic. Justifying torture, engaging in torture, while saying we don't torture, and blaming it on a few bad apples -- that's what the dictators do in a banana republic. And opposing independent investigations into such things -- well, that's another thing they do in a banana republic.
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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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