Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"A perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm"

In a story on the CIA's decision to use torture on terror suspects, the New York Times reinforces why a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing:
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.
The administration of President George W. Bush in seven words.

Ask the prisoners who died under interrogation, those abused at Abu Ghraib, those "renedered" to Syria, or those held for years in Guantanamo then released without even an apology. Ask those who lost everything to the financial crisis. Ask those who would have, had Bush privatized Social Security. Ask Gov. Don Siegleman, fired U.S. attorneys (and Monica Goodling), and the displaced populations of New Orleans and Baghdad.

Molly Ivins warned us not to let Bush anywhere near Washington. Is there anything he touched that didn't turn to shit?

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