This piece was reprinted by OpEdNews with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Reprinted from Consortium News
When you get an opportunity like this, don't fall back -- I heard my Irish grandmother telling me last Thursday as I took my place at the table to discuss torture with a former congressional committee chairman whose job it was to prevent such abuse.
Almost rubbing shoulders with me on my right was former House Intelligence Committee chair (2004-2007) Pete Hoekstra, a Republican from Michigan. Central China TV had asked both of us to address the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. I said yes, of course, since I was highly interested in how Hoekstra, with his front seat for the saga of "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," would try to 'splain it all.
Here was a unique chance to publicly confront a malleable, moral dwarf who had been in a uniquely powerful position to end the torture. The moment was also an odd one, for Hoekstra -- not the brightest star in the constellation -- seemed oblivious to his gross misfeasance and dereliction of duty. Or how his behavior might look to non-torture aficionados.
Last week, amid the unfolding torture scandal, Hoekstra went on CCTV America's daily talk show, "The Heat," to offer a heated defense of what he insisted on still calling "enhanced interrogation techniques." My opportunity for a blunt exchange with him over exactly what the House Intelligence Committee knew came near the end of the show.
I had already been trying hard to decode for the TV audience the bull-excrement coming from Hoekstra and others quoted on the program. At one point, as luck would have it, the moderator asked me about the CIA's fear-driven argument that the "urgency" of preventing additional terrorist attacks justified short-cuts like torture.
A hat tip here to my VIPS colleague Larry Johnson, who had called my attention earlier that day to the actual time sequence involving the capture and interrogation of detainee Abu Zubaydah, noting if that scenario reflected "time-urgency," we are all in serious trouble.
After FBI interrogators, using the traditional rapport-building approach to Abu Zubaydah, extracted a good deal of useful information from him in April 2002, Washington (for reasons not yet fully clear) ordered the FBI to give him over to CIA officials. They kept him in solitary confinement, asking him no questions, from mid-June 2002 until Aug. 4, giving time for torture-friendly lawyers in Washington to come up with some tortured legal justifications to "authorize" waterboarding and other abusive techniques. Zubaydah was then waterboarded 83 times, yielding no useful intelligence.
Clashing with Hoekstra
As the program neared its end, the host turned back to me and asked me to respond to former Vice President Dick Cheney's ardent defense of the torture program. I focused my criticism on Cheney as the "eminence grise" behind the Bush administration plunge into the "dark side."
But I also saw an opportunity to press Hoekstra on his knowledge and complicity, though I framed my question to give him an out on direct knowledge about the grisly torture techniques, from waterboarding and hanging people from ceilings to forced nudity and "rectal rehydration."
"I don't know if he [Cheney] checked with you, Congressman Hoekstra, he really should have, but I'm amazed if you were either unaware of these things or whether you condoned them," I said, addressing Hoekstra only inches away.
"I think I've been very open," Hoekstra responded, indicating that he did know and did approve...
McGovern: "You condoned them. My God!"
Hoekstra: "I explained this to you. Members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, leadership on both sides, Gang of Eight ..."
McGovern: "Thought that torture was okay?"
Hoekstra: "Thought that the enhanced interrogation techniques..."
McGovern: "That's torture."