Opinion

George W. Bush is out defending torture again. Don't listen to him.

CIA apologists are not immune to conflicts of interest

A Senate report denouncing the CIA's torture program in the years after 9/11 is reportedly going to be released this week, after years of delay. Naturally, this has prompted a last-ditch effort from the orchestrators of the program to prevent damage to their reputations, including a rare TV appearance from George W. Bush.

These people should all be jeered and pelted with rotten fruit.

There is simply no reason to trust them, and every reason to think they are either lying to themselves or the public. The torture report should be released immediately.

Of course, they can't say, "I oppose releasing the torture report because it will draw attention to the fact that I committed war crimes and achieved nothing for it," so they're left with dissembling madly. Let's examine their claims and why they deserve no benefit of the doubt.

The first tactic is simple BS. The Senate report apparently says that the CIA repeatedly lied to President Bush about the effectiveness of torture, but according to The New York Times' Peter Baker, Bush-era officials have decided to stand behind the agency anyway. On CNN, Bush told Candy Crowley that "we're fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf. These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base."

There is no argument at all here, just a simple assertion that the CIA is actually good. Since Bush has a gigantic political and psychological investment in not being remembered as a war criminal, his perspective (like that of Michael Hayden's) is highly suspect.

A second tactic is good old terror-baiting. Release the torture report and Americans will be slaughtered en masse, according to Bush apologist Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Dan Drezner dispensed with that gambit with a hilarious hypothetical scenario outlining how the logic is supposed to work:

ABDUL: You are not outraged about all the stories of infidels torturing our Muslim brothers in Abu Ghraib, in Bagram, in Guantánamo Bay? The stories about infidel soldiers desecrating the Koran?

AHMED: It's not enough for me to take up arms.

ABDUL: You are not outraged by the just-released Senate report about CIA torture?

AHMED: Wait, did you say 'Senate report'? OK, I will take up arms now. [The Washington Post]

Note that practically all the facts have already been well established — people have written whole books on the subject. The fact of American torture is widely known in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Least credible of all the torture apologists is Jose Rodriguez, the gormless, fumbling incompetent who not only ran the CIA's torture program but also destroyed video evidence of it (about which he later boasted to Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes). He has an op-ed defending his torture record in The Washington Post. It would be difficult to imagine a more absurd conflict of interest. What's next, Charles Manson's perspective on the Tate murders?

The grimly protracted process over releasing this rotten report has become less an accounting of the CIA and more about whether the American government can manage even the tiniest bit of accountability for horrific war crimes. It has long been clear that there won't be any actual legal accountability (remember that torture unto death is a capital crime), but it seems even an official report with little practical significance is more than our system can take.

Last week Secretary of State John Kerry was whining to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that the release of the report would inconvenience some diplomatic stuff. Apparently, when it comes to this president — and the previous one, and most of the American government — minor inconvenience is more important than trying to prevent more pointless torture.

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