So now we have it. John Kiriakou, the CIA officer involved in the interrogation of a high level detainee at the centre of the latest War on Terror scandal, says that the man was tortured.
Naturally, the circumstances in which interrogators forced water down the windpipe of Abu Zubaydah until his lungs filled with water did not resemble in the slightest the boy’s own fantasies cooked up by the moral cripples who occasionally defend torture in the OpEd pages. This was not the so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario but something far more prosaic. The CIA tortured Zubaydah for the reason that interrogators always torture people – to make him talk.
Kiriakou claims that Zubaydah duly spilled the beans.
Perhaps he did. But then here’s the description provided by journalist Ron Suskind of the kind of man at the mercy of the CIA’s torturers.
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Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries “in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3” — a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”
Kiriakou now says that he no longer approves of waterboarding and doesn’t think it should be used. “Americans are better than that,” he says.
Well, apparently not. We now learn that, not only has waterboarding defended by the most senior people in the Bush administration (Dick Cheney infamously described it as a “a dunk in water” and said its use was “a no-brainer for me”), but leading Democrats knew and approved of the practice as early as 2002. According to the Washington Post:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody… Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
Waterboarding was a practice frequently employed by Pol Pot. Yet here are some of America’s most senior legislators chatting amiably about techniques from the killing fields.
Remarkably, much of the American media persists in seeing the interrogators as the victims. The San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial denouncing waterboard suggests, for instance, that the CIA’s illegal destruction of tapes showing its illegal interrogations reveals “the difficulty that the CIA has been operating under during a time of shifting rules and outrages.”
There’s an old joke from Ireland’s Troubles that seems relevant here. A British soldier bayonets an Irishman. The dying man raises himself to his elbows and asks: “Why do you hate us so much?”
The soldier responds: “We will never forgive you bastards for what we’ve done to you.”