Jan 10, 2005
Some FBI agents, along with 12 retired generals and admirals raised objections to Bush's nominee for U.S. Attorney General at Senate hearings last week. And surprise! they criticized Alberto Gonzales, legal counsel to the White House, for writing the memo justifying the torture of detainees from the war in Afghanistan. Among other things, he called the Geneva Convention against Torture "quaint" and "obsolete."
Actually, these military officers and secret police weren't objecting to the use of torture because of humanitarian concerns. Military and intelligence services have used equally reprehensible methods for decades. What about the atomic bombing of two Japanese cities in World War II or the fire bombing of Dresden, Germany? What about the destruction of Viet Nam and its people by means of carpet bombing and Agent Orange? What of the bombing that wiped out most of Fallujah? These are all military tactics used to terrorize civilians. What torture does on a small individual scale terrorize these actions were carried out to do on the large scale.
But the memo Gonzales wrote in 2002 raises a practical problem for the U.S. military: because the arguments for torture were made so openly, the generals worried it would make retaliation against U.S. soldiers more likely.
When questioned by a reporter, one of the generals agreed it was possible that the dressing of Nick Berg in an orange jumpsuit by those who beheaded him could have been suggested by the orange jumpsuits worn by detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, Cuba.
The other problem the military raised is that torture is not useful for getting real intelligence. When interrogators repeatedly almost drown their prisoners or attach electric wires to prisoners' genitals, they can, of course, get lots of confessions but not real information. And prisoners kept in detention for months and months have no intelligence to give. How is intelligence useful unless it is current information?
But the use of torture in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo does serve a purpose. And this purpose the generals and FBI agents act dumb about. In Afghanistan the false confessions won by torture and murder allowed the U.S. to claim Al Qaeda was a worldwide conspiracy involving the Afghan and Iraqi governments giving it propaganda to justify the wars it wanted. And once the troops were in Iraq, the torture of people picked up by the U.S. inside Iraq was used to spread terror through the whole population. If Iraqis didn't cooperate with the U.S. occupiers, they could face torture.
A few people may criticize Gonzales for show but if he's getting a promotion, it's because he did what was asked of him.