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This is one of those stories in the category of, “We knew this before we knew it.”
When the shocking Abu Ghraib photos appeared in 2004, depicting U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq, public revulsion and outrage swept the land. Yet, even as a few of the low-level participants were punished and called “bad apples,” most Americans knew at a gut level that this debased behavior had to flow downward from a much higher level. Now we know it for a fact.
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How high did the moral and legal corruption go? All the way to the very top. Reporters have confirmed that torture tactics were discussed, orchestrated, and approved in the White House Situation Room by the Bush inner circle. Cheney was there. So were Condoleezza Rice, Donnie Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, John Ashcroft, and George Tenet.
It was not just one meeting, but dozens over many months, and the discussions were not idle chitchat, but detailed planning sessions to establish a brutal interrogation process. ABC news reports that methods of prisoner abuse “were almost choreographed – down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.” Indeed, CIA officers were brought in at times to demonstrate some of the tactics to the Bush Torture Team.
Then, to give their depraved policy an Orwellian-Machiavellian twist, these highest-ranking American officials devised legal cover-ups to protect themselves and others from being prosecuted for violating our country’s anti-torture laws. At least one member of the team, John Ashcroft, was antsy about what was going on: “Why are we talking about this in the White House?” he asked at one point. “History will not judge this kindly.”
Meanwhile, where was George? He was deliberately kept out of the meetings to insulate him from legal liability. But he now admits that he knew of the discussions and approved of the result.
“Cheney, others in ‘torture’ talks,” Santa Rosa Press, April 11, 2008
“The Torture Sessions,” The New York Times, April 20, 2008
“Let’s take it from the top,” Austin American Statesman, April 10, 2008
“There Were Orders to Follow,” The New York Times, April 4, 2008
“Memo Sheds New Light on Torture Issue,” The New York Times, April 3, 2008