Cheney Urged Bush to Bomb Syria in 2007

Dick Cheney's long-awaited book's out anf he promises lots of bombshells that will have heads exploding in DC.

Dick Cheney’s long-awaited book’s out and he promises lots of bombshells that will have heads exploding in DC.

MSNBC/Today Show (“Cheney: My book will have ‘heads exploding’ in D.C.“):

When former Vice President Dick Cheney releases his memoir early next week, it may cause the second earthquake in Washington, D.C., this month.

In the book, titled “In My Time,” Cheney addresses a broad range of topics, including the attacks of Sept. 11; a secret resignation letter he kept in a safe in case he experienced catastrophic health issues, and his thoughts about former President George W. Bush and ex-Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. The 46th vice president discusses those topics and more in his candid, unapologetic interview with Gangel, and he’ll likely have more to say when he appears live on TODAY with Matt Lauer on Aug. 30, the day his book hits stores.

One of the revelations in the book is the secret resignation letter that only one of Cheney’s staffers knew about. Signed in March 2001, the letter was locked in a safe at all times. “I did it because I was concerned that — for a couple of reasons,” he told Gangel. “One was my own health situation. The possibility that I might have a heart attack or a stroke that would be incapacitating. And there is no mechanism for getting rid of a vice president who can’t function.” “I would strongly support using it again if we had a high value detainee and that was the only way we could get him to talk,” he told Gangel.

Cheney also addressed whether Bush will feel hurt or betrayed by the contents of the book, which details private conversations between the two on such topics as whether to attack a target believed to be Iraq president Saddam Hussein. “I didn’t set out to embarrass the president or not embarrass the president,” Cheney told Gangel. “If you look at the book, there are many places in it where I say some very fine things about George Bush. And believe every word of it.”

The sealed resignation letter reveals the best of Cheney: unemotional analysis and a desire to put the needs of the country above his own. And, while I disagree strongly on the wisdom of the torture policy, I can see those same qualities taken to an unhealthy extreme.

As to the book itself and the question of loyalty to the president he served, I’m rather torn. Love him or hate him, Cheney is one of the most important would figures of the twenty year period between his taking the helm at the Pentagon in January 1989 and turning over the keys to the vice presidential mansion in January 2009. He’s got a story to tell and a keen, analytical mind. And, being in the unusual position of being older and less healthy than his boss, waiting until Bush goes into the great beyond is an unwise strategy. But a part of me thinks private conversations with the president ought to stay just that for a few decades.

While all the news outlets yesterday were going with the sealed letter story, the NYT‘s Charlie Savage (“Cheney Says He Urged Bush to Bomb Syria in ’07“) has something far more interesting.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says in a new memoir that he urged President George W. Bush to bomb a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site in June 2007. But, he wrote, Mr. Bush opted for a diplomatic approach after other advisers — still stinging over “the bad intelligence we had received about Iraq’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction” — expressed misgivings.

“I again made the case for U.S. military action against the reactor,” Mr. Cheney wrote about a meeting on the issue. “But I was a lone voice. After I finished, the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.”

Mr. Bush chose to try diplomatic pressure to force the Syrians to abandon the secret program, but the Israelis bombed the site in September 2007. Mr. Cheney’s account of the discussion appears in his autobiography, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” which is to be published by Simon & Schuster next week. A copy was obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Cheney’s book — which is often pugnacious in tone and in which he expresses little regret about many of the most controversial decisions of the Bush administration — casts him as something of an outlier among top advisers who increasingly took what he saw as a misguided course on national security issues. While he praises Mr. Bush as “an outstanding leader,” Mr. Cheney, who made guarding the secrecy of internal deliberations a hallmark of his time in office, divulges a number of conflicts with others in the inner circle.

I’ll let you click through to Savage’s excellent report for those details. But what’s been clear since word of Cheney’s tell-all book surfaced two years ago is that, shortly into the second term, whatever dominance the vice president may have had in the White House was over. Contrary to the mythos that Bush was an amiable puppet with others pulling the strings, he actually was what he infamously claimed to be: The Decider. And, by and large, his instincts were off-the-charts better than those of his much more seasoned number two.

It’s truly remarkable that Cheney, who was a superb defense secretary on the sensible, pragmatic foreign policy team of George H.W. Bush morphed into such a Machiavellian character. The fact that nobody else at George W. Bush’s National Security Council table thought he was right on Syria–and, for the record, my hand wouldn’t have gone up, either–speaks volumes.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    Those of us reading this survived Cheney, but it’s important to remember that many other innocents did not.

    (US focus, and literal “survivor bias.”)

  2. Hey Norm says:

    It’s interesting, to the conspiracy theorist in me, that after Bush decided not to bomb the Syrian nuclear plant – Isreal went ahead and did it. Does anyone seriously think Cheney’s hand was not involved in that?
    I haven’t read any of the excerpts yet. When I do I will be curious to read about any sense of accountibility for 9.11 happening on their watch.

  3. Jay Tea says:

    The Syrian bombing was a very, very good move. The reaction of the Arab/Muslim world was deafening silence, and it was carried out by Israel; if they didn’t go ape over Israel doing it, they wouldn’t have gotten more bent out of shape if we’d done it.

    On the other hand, Israel is really, really good at this, and we didn’t need to do it ourselves.

    Also, the quote seems slightly messed up. The bit about the enhanced interrogations bit is at the end of the resignation letter paragraph with absolutely no context.

    J.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    Just one more thing…the only people in the world who don’t believe waterboarding is torture are Cheney, and his sychophants.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    In the appendix to Cheney’s book is the complete list of countries he recommended we not bomb:

    Canada
    Botswana

  6. Boyd says:

    @Hey Norm: False. There are a lot of folks who disagree with you on that point, and not because they’re Cheney’s lapdogs. Many of us don’t believe it’s torture because, after having been through it ourselves, we’ve decided on our own that our personal experience tells us it’s not torture. I’m sure you think us fools and bloodthirsty warmongers for merely entertaining that position, but the point remains: It’s got absolutely zero to do with the former Vice President.

    But keep telling yourself that lie. I’m sure it’ll somehow benefit you eventually.

  7. rodney dill says:

    @michael reynolds: What? How did he miss Botswana. So many countries, so little time.

  8. EddieInCA says:

    @michael reynolds:

    In the appendix to Cheney’s book is the complete list of countries he recommended we not bomb:

    Canada
    Botswana

    Fixed that for you Michael.

  9. Boyd says:

    James, there are many potential factors that may have played into the “Syria show-of-hands showdown” that we just don’t know about. It’s certainly plausible that others may have agreed with Cheney, but already knew how the President was going to decide, and wanted to be team players. Or any other number of factors that would have yielded the same result: only the VP voting for bombing Syria.

    I’m not saying that this event happened any particular way, but I think there are many possible, even likely scenarios that involve people agreeing with the VP but being unwilling to say so.

  10. Hey Norm says:

    @ Boyd…
    Just because you don’t recoginize yourself as a sychophant doesn’t mean you are not one.
    If Saddam or OBL had used the very same procedure on an American everyone would be screaming War Criminal at the top of their lungs.
    Because Cheney advocated for it you are not.
    But Marc Thieissen agrees with you so you have that going for you…which is nice.
    It’s pretty basic math.

  11. Boyd says:

    @Hey Norm: You are truly incredible. I’m sure you agree on that point, at least.

  12. Jay Tea says:

    @Hey Norm: It’s SYCOPHANT, dammit. If you’re going to insult people, at least get it right. It takes away a lot of the impact when you make yourself look stupid when insulting others.

    J.

  13. Jay Tea says:

    @Hey Norm: No, I wouldn’t. But I find it entertaining that in your fantasy world, the guys who routinely behead prisoners and feed people feet-first into plastic shredders would also use an interrogation technique that involves having a doctor on hand to make absolutely certain the subject is not injured, that the interrogators themselves go through the procedures they’re applying, and have lawyers review and critique techniques before they’re used…

    J.

  14. Hey Norm says:

    JTea..
    Your argument is – suprise – based on false logic. Yes – you are correct – beheading is bad. Yes – you are correct – shredding people is bad. Neither of those things makes waterboarding good…even with doctors present and having idiots like John Yoo say it’s alright.
    If your argument is based on faulty logic then it’s not much of an argument – even if your spelling is perfect.

  15. liberty60 says:

    I am reading “Theodore Rex”, Edmund Morris’ excellent biography of Teddy RooseveltM

    In it, he describes how the US was fight Muslim insurgents in the Phillipines, and reports had surfaced about American soldiers performing the “water cure” on Muslim prisonersM

    The report caused outrage in Washington, and TR felt shame and embarrassment about it.

    Oddly enough, even among the crowd of militarty veterans, men who had experienced firsthand the horrors of Antietam the wasn’t any debate about whether it was torture or not.

    Oh and by the way, TR deflected the criticism exactly as Jay Tea does, by waving the bloody shirt of atrocities done against our boys.

    It was a bullshit argument then and still is today.

  16. legion says:

    The sealed resignation letter reveals the best of Cheney: unemotional analysis and a desire to put the needs of the country above his own.

    James,
    I could not disagree more. The letter shows Cheney acknowledged the limitations of his own physical condition, but I do not see your conclusion on ‘the needs of the country’ in the slightest. If anything, I think a hallmark of Cheney’s tenure and impact as VP was an overwhelming need, post 9/11, to lash out and cause others as much pain as we had suffered, regardless of whether that was ‘good’ for the US or not. While it’s an understandable psychological reaction (and one reflected in pretty much every right-wing pundit from that day to this), it’s irresponsible and unforgivable in someone in Cheney’s position.

  17. Tlaloc says:

    I’m not one for calling political enemies evil but that man is pure evil. He callously condemned thousands to barbaric torture and it clearly never even bothered him in the slightest. The hague was established precisely for men like Cheney. He’s an American Pol Pot, and if you think that’s anything but a slight exaggeration of scale (not nature) you simply haven’t paid attention to what the man did.

  18. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: Of course it’s easy for Jay to spell sycophant. He sees it every time he looks in the mirror, since it’s tatooed across his forehead.

  19. Hey Norm says:

    @WR…
    it was good thinking on his part to have it tatooed backwards. I’m suprised really…

  20. James in LA says:

    Seat grand juries TODAY. They got Pinochet and Milsovic ‘ere the end.

  21. Rob in CT says:

    I find the whole “oh I went through waterboarding as part of my training and I don’t think it’s torture” thing to be incredible.

    Fellas, you were in training. You knew damn well they weren’t going to kill you, or seriously harm you. Knowing that had to help, significantly.

    The people Cheney had waterboarded did *not* know that. They didn’t know any such thing (and, though I don’t know it was waterboarding that did it, several prisoners were killed/mysteriously died). That’s a big difference.

    The training was done to try and prepare you in some way for the worst that some of our nastiest enemies might throw at you if you were captured. Guys like Cheney apparently decided that we should act just like those nastiest enemies (all the while continuing to try and claim the moral highground, of course).

    The man is an absolute disgrace to this country.

  22. legion says:

    @Rob in CT: Exactly. The whole point to torture is the implicit threat that whatever you’re feeling now will get worse unless you comply. When you bring a guard dog in to growl and snap at a prisoner’s genitals, you’re implying that if they don’t talk, you’ll let the dog attack them. When you fire a live round next to a prisoner’s head, you’re implying that you’re willing to shoot them, or even kill them, if you don’t get what you want. When you waterboard someone, you’re threatening to drown them if they don’t cooperate. Period. that’s what torture is. And that’s why we aren’t supposed to do it.

    While simulation in training has its value, it ain’t the same thing. And even given that, I knew a few pilots when I was in the AF. And I knew several who went through the joint SERE training, and said they would hand in their wings before they’d go through that again, and that was just the training.

  23. legion says:

    @michael reynolds:

    In the appendix to Cheney’s book is the complete list of countries he recommended we not bomb:

    Canada
    Botswana

    Hey, I notice the US isn’t on that list….

    TO THE WINGNUTMOBILE!
    Da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na

  24. Drew says:

    James –

    I thought your otherwise good essay stopped a bit short, in that you abruptly ended with:

    “The fact that nobody else at George W. Bush’s National Security Council table thought he was right on Syria–and, for the record, my hand wouldn’t have gone up, either–speaks volumes.”

    And yet Israel acted. It seems there is more to the story and deliberation.

  25. Rob in CT says:

    TO THE WINGNUTMOBILE!
    Da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na

    LOL! Thanks for that.

  26. Jay Tea says:

    I’m trying to see the point here.

    The site in question was bombed.

    I have yet to hear or read of a single argument that it should not have been bombed.

    The silence of pretty much every nation on the matter speaks volumes — the loudest protester was, of all nations, North Korea.

    The conclusion is that pretty much everyone was glad the site was bombed.

    Even Syria itself didn’t complain loudly, just quietly buried the evidence (literally) that it ever happened.

    The risk of operations like this are that they provoke retaliation and make the striking nation a pariah — neither of which happened to Israel, which is far more vulnerable to such attacks than we are.

    Israel didn’t lose a single life or aircraft in the strike; I have trouble believing the US would have done worse.

    So, why does Cheney’s support of this come across as so monstrous? In the judgment of history (a fancy way of saying hindsight), he was the most rational person at that table.

    J.

  27. legion says:

    @Jay Tea: A reasonable question, with a simple answer:
    Logistics.
    In 2007, we were still fully (maybe more-than-fully) engaged in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe we’d have been able to “borrow” support & infrastructure from Israel, but even then the lead time necessary would have made it incredibly difficult to maintain OPSEC before the bombs dropped – let alone after. Another thing that made Israel’s attack so slick was that they had completely compromised Syria’s air defense network… I don’t know if we were even aware of that fact at the time, but there’s no guarantee we would have been able to do it as casualty-free as they did.

  28. Jay Tea says:

    @legion: That’s an answer I can respect. It’s an old truism that “amateurs study battles, experts study logistics.”

    At the time of the strike (September 2007), the US Air Force wasn’t that committed — at least, not so committed that it couldn’t pull off this strike. Plus, the site was a lot closer to Iraq than Israel — where we had secure bases. Logistically, I think it would have actually been easier for us than Israel to hit it.

    But that’s purely logistical. Politically, it might have been more palatable for Israel to do it. Plus, Israel was the most threatened by the site, and they aren’t that comfortable with anyone — even us — taking care of threats for them. And it also let Israel directly slap around the Dorktator, remind him not to push them too far. So they were probably more than willing to do it, and it was probably better for them to do it than us.

    But that doesn’t make it as monstrous as some others here seem to find the thought. Remember, the site was a secret nuclear facility, being constructed by Syria, Iran, and North Korea. Assuming that this was benign is just plain insane. It needed to get blowed up real good.

    J.

  29. anjin-san says:

    Canada
    Botswana

    Personally, I think those Canuck are pushing their luck…

  30. anjin-san says:

    It takes away a lot of the impact when you make yourself look stupid when insulting others.

    @Hey Norm

    You are learning at the feet of the master…

  31. jukeboxgrad says:

    rob:

    Fellas, you were in training. You knew damn well they weren’t going to kill you, or seriously harm you. Knowing that had to help, significantly.

    That’s correct, but that’s not the only problem.

    There are many differences between CIA waterboarding and SERE waterboarding. Lots of people have been (and still are) promoting the idea that SERE waterboarding is the same thing we did to our prisoners. Trouble is, CIA has admitted it’s not:

    the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant

    Details here.

  32. Jay Tea says:

    @jukeboxgrad: Sometimes, juke, what you don’t say is more educational than what you do say.

    You want everyone to make damned sure that there are differences between CIA waterboarding and SERE training waterboarding, but you are curiously slient about differences between CIA waterboarding and that done by the Japanese in World War II and the US in the Philippine Insurrection. Why, it’s almost as if you don’t want it compared to a tolerable form, but don’t mind if it’s likened to truly brutal torture.

    I would be fascinated to hear you distinguish the CIA techniques from the three other forms most commonly cited. You’ve obviously spent a great deal of time and effort on the subject; wouldn’t you be willing to share?

    J.

  33. Jay Tea says:

    @legion: You’re engaging in a kind of inverse “slippery slope” argument. You can’t torture — that’s agreed upon. But you’re saying is “you can’t torture. And you can’t do things that are close to but not torture, because that makes people think that you’ll cross the line. And you can’t do things that are close to close to torture, because that makes people think you’ll get closer to the line, and then cross the line.”

    It’s a seductive argument, but it doesn’t hold up. You draw a line with the law, and say “don’t cross it.” That’s fine. But then say “you can’t get close to the line,” and it starts getting very, very hazy.

    Think of speed limits. “65MPH.” You argument is, don’t accelerate to 64MPH, because that might make people think you’re going to speed. And then, with 64 as the new limit, you better not accelerate to 63. And so on.

    Besides, your argument is hinged on what the subject thinks, not actual reality. Deception by police has long been an accepted tactic — lying about evidence, lying about accessory’s confessions, and whatnot. Courts have ruled that such things are legal.

    J.

  34. jukeboxgrad says:

    it’s almost as if you don’t want it compared to a tolerable form

    I “don’t want it compared to a tolerable form” because according to the CIA itself, the “tolerable form” is “so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant.” So please explain why you think it makes sense to compare these two things even though they are “so different.”

    I would be fascinated to hear you distinguish the CIA techniques from the three other forms most commonly cited.

    I have no idea what you mean by “the three other forms most commonly cited.”

    you are curiously slient about differences between CIA waterboarding and that done by the Japanese in World War II and the US in the Philippine Insurrection.

    As usual, “you are curiously” making yet another statement totally divorced from reality. I have actually said quite a bit about what was done “by the Japanese in World War II and the US in the Philippine Insurrection,” and turns out that the similarities are more important than the differences. When the Japanese used essentially the same procedure we did, we called it torture, and we prosecuted them for it.

  35. Jay Tea says:

    @jukeboxgrad: Let me clarify, then, as you seem to miss my point — I will not speculate on whether that was deliberate or not.

    The CIA technique waterboarding as practiced on a grand total of three truly heinous people, contrasted with:

    1) SERE training waterboarding.
    2) The “Water Cure” used in the Philippine Insurrection.
    3) The “Water torture” used by the Imperial Japanese Army.

    All three are customarily compared to the CIA practice. In the SERE example, it is used to argue that the CIA technique isn’t torture. In the other two, how it is torture. You go into great detail differentiating the CIA and SERE techniques; I’d like to see a similar type of comparative analysis of the CIA technique vs. the other two.

    J.

  36. Jay Tea says:

    @jukeboxgrad: OK, looking at your own comment at Volokh:

    …they laid me out on a stretcher and strapped me on. The stretcher was then stood on end with my head almost touching the floor and my feet in the air…. They then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breath without sucking in water

    In the CIA technique, great care is taken that no water is aspirated. There is no introduction of water into the respiratory tract.

    The Japanese technique is partial drowning — with all the complications and consequences thereof. The CIA technique is not drowning in any way whatsoever.

    J.

  37. Jay Tea says:

    Aw, crud. The first paragraph is a quote (with emphasis added); the second two are my own words. Dagnabit…

    J.

  38. legion says:

    @jukeboxgrad: OK, a couple of things. First, there’s a difference between erring on the side of caution and simply not exercising caution at all. Sure, you can accelerate straight to 65 in a 65 zone. But if the rest of traffic on that road is doing 55, you’re gonna crash – it’s important to check first before just doing stuff. To turn back to the topic, there _are_ lots of things interrogators can do to deal with lying prisoners. But there are also certain restrictions to procedure, military regulation, and federal law that interrogators don’t just get to ignore, even when there are lives on the line. Yes, terms like ‘torture’ aren’t technically defined; as you point out, even ‘waterboarding’ can be several different things. But bringing stuff like this _into_ the light, rather than hiding it behind the mystique of spycraft terms like ‘enhanced interrogation’ would probably make it more useful.

    And speaking of ‘useful’, there’s another issue with the entire concept…

    The CIA technique waterboarding as practiced on a grand total of three truly heinous people,

    I’ve seen from a number of sources that – and this is the really important bit about this entire debate – the torture didn’t work.
    Yes, the prisoners broke down and talked, but they either maintained thier lies or they just told the interrogators whatever they thought they wanted to hear, without regard to truth. In other words, you can use torture to get a confession, but it’s no guarantee of truthful confession. Given that (and there’s a growing body of psychological study supporting it), the only real uses for torture are a) to railroad people you just want to put in jail, and b) the infliction of punishment/revenge. Neither of these goals should be allowed in a free society.

  39. jukeboxgrad says:

    jay tea:

    In the CIA technique, great care is taken that no water is aspirated. There is no introduction of water into the respiratory tract.

    This is one of the standard right-wing talking points regarding CIA waterboarding. Too bad it’s false. We know this from the Bradbury memo of 5/10/05 (pdf, p. 13):

    Either in the normal application, or where countermeasures are used, we understand that water may enter — and may accumulate in — the detainee’s mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing.

    Compare that to the Japanese example I cited:

    They then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breath without sucking in water

    One more time: when the Japanese used essentially the same procedure we did, we called it torture, and we prosecuted them for it. You still need to address that, and now you also need to apologize for promoting a phony talking point.

    The CIA technique is not drowning in any way whatsoever.

    According to Bradbury’s own words, “water may enter … the detainee’s mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing.” If there’s some material difference between that and “drowning,” you need to tell us what it is.

  40. jukeboxgrad says:

    legion:

    the torture didn’t work. … you can use torture to get a confession, but it’s no guarantee of truthful confession.

    You’re making an important point, but I would say it differently. The torture did work. Torture is good for one thing: eliciting false confessions. There’s more than a trivial amount of evidence that we tortured specifically in order to elicit false confessions for the purpose of selling the war. And we were successful in using torture to elicit false confessions, and those false confessions were indeed used successfully to help sell the war.

    Turning his back on this problem is one of Obama’s greatest failures.

  41. Jay Tea says:

    @jukeboxgrad: Interesting document you cite as authoritative, page 15:

    We understand that in many years Of use on thousands of participants in SERE training, tlie waterboard technique (although used in a substantially more limited way) has not resulted in any cases of serious physical pain or prolonged mental harm. In addition, we understand that the waterboard has been used by the CIA on three high level Al Qaeda detainees, two of whom were subjected to the technique numerous times, and according to OMS, none of these three individuals has shown any evidence of physical pain or suffering or mental harm in the more than 25 months since the”technique” was used on them. As noted, we understand that OMS has been involved in imposing strict limits on the use of the waterboard, limits that, when combined with careful monitoring, in their professional judgment should prevent physical pain or suffering or mental harm to a detainee. In addition, we understand that any detainee is closely monitored by medical and psychological personnel whenever the waterboard is applied, and that there are additional reporting requirements beyond the normal reporting requirements in place when other interrogation techniques are used.

    (Apologies if I missed any typos; the original PDF wasn’t cooperative with cutting and pasting)

    The document clearly states that the technique does NOT meet the legal standard of torture — which, according to Title 18, Chapter 113C, Section 2340:

    As used in this chapter—
    (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
    (2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
    (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
    (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
    (C) the threat of imminent death; or
    (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
    (3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.

    Also, “may.” As in, “we don’t intend it, but it might occur anyway.” As opposed to case of Yukio Asano, who was specifically convicted of “forcing water” into the mouths and noses of prisoners of war — along with beating and kicking them, and burning them with cigarettes.

    Useful document, that. I’ll have to keep it handy.

    J.

  42. jukeboxgrad says:

    Interesting document you cite as authoritative

    Except that I didn’t say everything Bradbury said is “authoritative.” Are you familiar with the concept of admission against interest? I guess not. I’ll try to explain it to you.

    Imagine Bernie Madoff making the following statement: ‘yes, I did steal $18B, but it’s OK because last month I gave all the money back.’ Do you realize that it actually makes sense to believe the first five words? That’s because they are an admission against interest. That is, they are a statement that is against his interest, and therefore he would have no reason to make that statement if the statement wasn’t true. But just because it’s logical to believe that the first five words are true, that doesn’t mean that everything he says is true. The admission against interest doesn’t make everything else he says “authoritative.” So it’s pure hackery on your part to suggest that I think that everything Bradbury said is “authoritative.”

    One more time, here’s something Bradbury said:

    Either in the normal application, or where countermeasures are used, we understand that water may enter — and may accumulate in — the detainee’s mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing.

    Do we have any reason to believe that statement is false? No, we don’t. The whole point of Bradbury’s memo is to argue that waterboarding isn’t torture. This admission he made tends to undermine his argument, rather than support it. That makes it an admission against interest, which means it makes sense to view the statement as true. He would have no reason to make this statement unless he thought it was true.

    On the other hand, Bradbury made other statements which you have cited, like this one:

    we understand that OMS has been involved in imposing strict limits on the use of the waterboard, limits that, when combined with careful monitoring, in their professional judgment should prevent physical pain or suffering or mental harm to a detainee

    Do you understand what “OMS” is? It’s the CIA Office of Medical Services. So that passage (and the other material you cited) is Bradbury dutifully regurgitating self-serving, undocumented claims that were made by the CIA. In other words, this is Bradbury essentially saying ‘the torturer told me he wasn’t torturing, so I guess there’s been no torture.’

    In the absence of evidence independently corroborating these claims (e.g., with regard to “careful monitoring”), there’s no reason to assume that the claims are true. But when Bradbury admits, in the course of approving waterboarding, “that water may enter — and may accumulate in — the detainee’s mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing,” we do indeed have good reason to assume that this description is accurate. Especially because there is no contrary evidence.

    Which brings us to your ignorant, phony claim:

    In the CIA technique, great care is taken that no water is aspirated. There is no introduction of water into the respiratory tract.

    When are you going to admit that your claim is false? You need to either do that, or show proof that it’s true. But of course, you have none. So instead, you’re trying to change the subject by pretending that this one admission by Bradbury magically makes all his other claims “authoritative.” And guess what: even if we assume, arguendo, that all his other claims are “authoritative,” then your own claim (“there is no introduction of water into the respiratory tract”) is still false.

    The document clearly states that the technique does NOT meet the legal standard of torture

    Yes, big surprise. Bradbury’s job was to give the torturers a permission slip, and that’s what he did. He did indeed claim “that the technique does NOT meet the legal standard of torture.” That was the whole point of his memo. Trouble is, he said waterboarding wasn’t torture even though there’s a long history of US courts treating it as a form of torture (pdf). And here’s one way we know that Bradbury is a hack: he never acknowledges that history. And of course the same applies to you.

    One more time: when the Japanese used essentially the same procedure we did, we called it torture, and we prosecuted them for it. You still need to address that, and you still need to apologize for promoting a phony talking point.

    As opposed to case of Yukio Asano, who was specifically convicted of “forcing water” into the mouths and noses of prisoners of war

    One more time, this is the description provided by the victim:

    They then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breath without sucking in water

    Yes, this was described as “forcing water into their mouths and noses.” Do you know why? Because they “began pouring water over [his] face and at times it was almost impossible for [him] to breath without sucking in water.” This had the effect of “forcing water into their mouths and noses.”

    One more time, this is what we did, according to Bradbury:

    Either in the normal application, or where countermeasures are used, we understand that water may enter — and may accumulate in — the detainee’s mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing.

    So you still need to explain how what we did was materially different from what this American prisoner described the Japanese doing to him (“they then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breath without sucking in water”).

    along with beating and kicking them, and burning them with cigarettes.

    Yes, the Japanese applied other forms of abuse, aside from waterboarding (and we also applied other forms of abuse, aside from waterboarding). But the fact remains that the waterboarding itself was considered torture, and we prosecuted the Japanese accordingly. You need to explain why we don’t owe them an apology.

    And I need to remind you again that you said this:

    The CIA technique is not drowning in any way whatsoever.

    According to Bradbury’s own words, “water may enter … the detainee’s mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing.” If there’s some material difference between that and “drowning,” you need to tell us what it is.

    All you’re giving us is Bradbury’s own assertion that waterboarding isn’t torture. This is worthless, because Bradbury’s own words indicate that the technique we used is essentially indistinguishable from the technique we described as torture when the Japanese did it.

  43. Jay Tea says:

    You assert that we prosecuted Japanese for waterboarding specifically and exclusively. The one case I found showed it as part of a whole procedure. That doesn’t make any particular part in and of itself torture. Forcing water into someone’s respiratory tract, while beating them and jumping on their water-distended stomach, is torture — I won’t argue that.

    And no, I’m not going to back down from defending a policy that subjected three — and only three — of the top leaders of Al Qaeda to waterboarding. That it was so limited and so controlled and so scrutinized makes me comfortable enough to not want to make a big deal out of it. This wasn’t a standard policy, applied haphazardly and casually and indiscriminately, so I say let it go. You don’t make laws or policies based on the smallest exceptions, but on general principles and most cases. And of all the detainees at Guantanamo, only three were waterboarded, and three that weren’t selected at random. I’m cool with that.

    J.

  44. jukeboxgrad says:

    You assert that we prosecuted Japanese for waterboarding specifically and exclusively.

    I see that you can barely get through a sentence without making a false claim. No, we didn’t prosecute them for waterboarding “exclusively” (whatever that’s supposed to mean). We prosecuted them for waterboarding, period. The fact that we also prosecuted them for other things does not change the fact that we prosecuted them for waterboarding. The waterboarding itself was considered to be torture and treated as a crime. The fact that there were other crimes (e.g., beatings) is not what magically turned the waterboarding into a crime.

    The one case I found showed it as part of a whole procedure. That doesn’t make any particular part in and of itself torture.

    It’s quite disingenuous of you to pretend that there’s only “one case.” The paper I cited referenced many cases. And notice this example of how the charges were written:

    Specification 1: That in or about July or August, 1943, the accused Yukio Asano, did willfully and unlawfully, brutally mistreat and torture Morris O. Killough, an American Prisoner of War, by beating and kicking him; by fastening him on a stretcher and pouring water up his nostrils.

    People with normal reading comprehension understand that “brutally mistreat and torture” applies to each item on the list that follows. And here’s that list:

    A) by beating and kicking him
    B) by fastening him on a stretcher and pouring water up his nostrils

    According to this court, both A and B are each properly described as “brutally mistreat and torture.” Notice the court did not say ‘by fastening him on a stretcher and pouring water up his nostrils while beating and kicking him.’ Notice that the victims described the beatings taking place prior to the waterboarding, not during the waterboarding. Let us know if you are really taking the position that waterboarding is torture, but only if I beat you first. Really? And then you can show us your proof that the CIA never beat anyone before waterboarding them. You must have proof of that, right?

    Forcing water into someone’s respiratory tract, while beating them and jumping on their water-distended stomach, is torture — I won’t argue that.

    Notice this victim’s description from the pdf I cited:

    After beating me for a while they would lash me to a stretcher then prop me up against a table with my head down. They would then pour about two gallons of water from a pitcher into my nose and mouth until I lost consciousness.

    Notice that there is no “jumping on their water-distended stomach,” and notice that the waterboarding was not done “while beating them.” The simple English words “they would then” indicate that first there was beating, then there was waterboarding. Like I said, let us know if you’re really taking the position that waterboarding is torture, but only if I beat you first.

    And notice that the “forcing water into someone’s respiratory tract” was done simply by pouring, which is precisely what we did.

    I’m not going to back down from defending a policy that subjected three — and only three — of the top leaders of Al Qaeda to waterboarding.

    Aside from the torturers themselves claiming it was “only three,” how do you know it was “only three?” And where does the statute say that torture is not a crime if it’s done to “only three?” And the issue of you “defending” the act is separate from the question of whether or not it is properly described as torture. If you were marginally less dishonest you would say that you defend it even though it was torture.

    That it was so limited and so controlled and so scrutinized

    Your evidence “that it was so limited and so controlled and so scrutinized” consists exclusively of uncorroborated claims made by the torturers themselves. Who also admitted destroying the videotapes. Yup, they sure are believable. You probably also believed Nixon when he said “I am not a crook.”

    And if you weren’t deeply ignorant on this subject you would know that the CIA Inspector General found that the CIA misled OLC, by describing a procedure that was “limited” and “controlled,” but then actually performing a procedure that was much less “limited” and “controlled.” This is from the same Bradbury memo I already cited:

    The IG Report noted that in some cases the waterboard was used with far greater frequency than initially indicated… and also that it was used in a different manner. … (”The waterboard technique was different from the technique described in the DOJ opinion and used in the SERE training. The difference was in the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed. At the SERE school and in the DoJ opinion, the subject’s airflow is disrupted by by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passages; the Interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth in a controlled manner. By contrast, the Agency interrogator… applies large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose. … The Inspector General further reported that “OMS contends that the expertise of the SERE psychologist/interrogators on the waterboard was probably misrepresented at the time, as the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant. [c]onsequently, according to OMS, there was no a priori reason to believe that applying the waterboard with the frequency and intensity with which it was used by the psychologist/interrogators was either efficacious or medically safe.”

    Follow that? Bradbury’s memo is packed with examples of him blindly trusting statements by the CIA, even though his memo also contains evidence (like this passage) indicating that CIA had been misleading OLC (the issue of CIA misleading OLC is explained in more detail here). So your claims about “so limited and so controlled and so scrutinized” are worthless.

    You don’t make laws or policies based on the smallest exceptions, but on general principles and most cases

    What a good little authoritarian you are. Shorter Jay Tea: ‘it’s important for the government to obey the law, except for when it decides it doesn’t want to.’

    You still need to explain why “pouring water up his nostrils” is considered to be torture when someone does it to us, but not when we do it to someone else. You still need to explain why we don’t owe the Japanese an apology. And you still need to explain why you made a false claim (“in the CIA technique … there is no introduction of water into the respiratory tract”).

    I’m cool with that.

    It’s obvious that you’re “cool with” torture. You’re also “cool with” making false claims and then refusing to acknowledge that they’re false after being shown proof that they’re false. But this is to be expected. It’s no surprise that people whose morality permits torture also have no problem making shit up.