Cross-posted from Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The American public now knows that the Bush administration authorized the CIA to employ torture against suspected high level Al Qaeda operatives in the name of national security. The public was told that these techniques were necessary to protect American citizens and that they were carefully calibrated in order to minimize any harm beyond what was absolutely necessary to fulfill the government’s mandate.
The Bush administration has never been able to actually prove that its use of torture was necessary however; nor has it been able to extricate itself from the moral dilemma it created by engaging in tactics that previously distinguished this country from its enemies. For those who remain spellbound by the administration’s rhetoric, the classified Iraq documents published in October by Wikileaks demonstrate the depths to which it lowered itself in its cynicism and hypocrisy.
Prior to the 2003 invasion, the American public was treated to a relentless propaganda bombardment focused on the evils of Saddam Hussein, including most notoriously his use of torture against his enemies. It was America’s responsibility to stop this evil, so the narrative went, increasingly so after the intelligence community failed to find any trace of WMDs in post-invasion Iraq.
On October 22, Al Jazeera reported that from at least as far back as 2005, U.S. military policy regarding allegations of torture by Iraqi security forces was to shift investigatory authority from frontline units to higher headquarters, effectively ensuring that Iraqi forces would be permitted to operate in flagrant violation of international law.
Why did we “turn a blind eye to torture,” as Al Jazeera so unequivocally put it? In light of the Bush administration’s moral flexibility on so many other matters of national security policy, it is almost impossible not to draw the conclusion that for them, torture was only an issue of concern if perpetrated by an unfriendly government. In the case of the U.S.-aligned Iraqi government, allegations of torture would only be investigated at the discretion of “higher headquarters”; i.e. when it became politically necessary or useful to do so. Though Al Jazeera does not specify where the military’s torture reporting policy derived from, as the proverb goes, “The fish rots from the head.”
There is still a great deal to be known about the Bush administration’s Iraq policies. Courageous and indefatigable investigators and whistleblowers including James Bamford, Karen Kwiatkowski, Naomi Klein, Greg Palast, Greg Muttitt, Antonia Juhasz and numerous others have already uncovered a great deal of those pieces which will in time give us the complete set of answers about why the Bush administration took the United States to war. And as we continue to uncover the pieces, we will build the case for Bush officials’ criminal liability for subverting the Constitution and for the deaths of over one hundred thousand Iraqis and 4,400 Americans.
Those who have sacrificed their lives in the effort to keep Iraq from fragmenting into civil war through seven years of continuous conflict deserve nothing less than the full and undistorted truth about why their commander-in-chief ordered them into battle. And the Iraqi people, victims of a war of aggression, are owed what justice America can offer and more.
TJ Buonomo is an energy program associate at Global Exchange and a board member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.