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Beware the Abu Ghraib Trap on Torture, Start With Hayden

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There is a healthy debate taking place right now within the accountability movement, over whether it is good or bad that Obama has stated that the DOJ will not prosecute individual CIA officers on torture.  One side says, no, this is not good.  If you tortured you are responsible and following orders is no excuse.  You should be prosecuted.    The other view is: good, we don't want individual soldiers, we want the ones who gave the orders.  Quasi-immunity allows individuals step forward with their tales, which will fuel a movement to prosecute high Bush officials, and perhaps ultimately Bush and Cheney themselves.  Both sides make excellent points

Fortunately for us, Pat Leahy tipped the hand of the congress and indicated where prosecution of individual soldiers might go.   He warned of an endless showcasing of a few torturing weasels, until the American public gets its fill and says "enough already," with those who gave the orders no closer to justice.   Half the population will side with the officers, and say they are scapegoats, and half will say they are bad men and should go to jail.  Meanwhile, once the public's appetite for these kinds of investigations has been expended, BushCo gets up and walks away.

It was for this reason that I perceived an intriguing possibility in Obama's announcement that he would not prosecute CIA officers.  It shut down the possibility of this kind of circus, which the congress could stage, shut down, then tell us, why are you mad?  We gave you what you wanted.

The right will have a field day saying those liberals are against protecting America, they don't understand this is war.

So let's be completely realistic: if the battleground we chose is whether you may torture someone in a ticking-bomb scenario, where a million people are about to die, we are going to lose.  The accountability movement is a small, narrow slice of the political spectrum which inherently understands this is never the case.  If we do not grapple with the reality that the average idiot on the street watches "24" and thinks every act of torture is preventing an attack, then we are not in it to win.

I like to choose battles I can win.  Furthermore, in moving toward prosecuting individual soldiers, I smell an Abu Grahib Circus trap.  Play it out so it goes nowhere, then tell us there is no more interest.  This is what these Washington political animals excel at.

When we keep a hard focus on the innocence of many or most of those swept up and tortured, the ticking-bomb scenario falls apart.  There is plenty of evidence, and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson just did us a huge favor by acknowledging this at the highest level.  The politicians are smart, but we have to be smarter.  If we are going to prosecute a CIA official, fine.  Our demands should focus on General Michael Hayden, the Director of the CIA under whose watch these acts occurred, and under whose watch nearly 100 interrogation videotapes were destroyed, which is felony destruction of evidence. 

As one who is from an Air Force family, it offends me that he is wearing that uniform.  He should be stripped of his rank, court-martialed, and sentenced to hard labor at Leavenworth.

Beware the Abu Grahib Circus trap.  Keep your eye on the ball.  Who told these men these prisoners were the "worst of the worst?"  Why did they say this, knowing it was not true?  These are the the questions I want to see in the headlines, not did you torture? - to which they can say, to applause, "yes, and I would do it again for my country."

"largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.

   But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim that everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released."

- Col. Lawrence Wilkserson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell

other links:

"Detainee says US tortured him":

"Tortured and Innocent":

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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on (more...)

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