Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SERE was exposure to brainwashing, not interrogation techniques

Over the past week it has become ever clearer that the Bush administration torture program took place during the time that Cheney was searching for 'evidence' of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link.

Now consider what a friend who works as a defense analyst just pointed out to me: The principle objective of SERE was to expose troops to the techniques used for brainwashing, not defense against interrogation.

The military has long understood that the best way to protect military secrets is not to reveal any information that is not strictly necessary to any personnel who might be captured. Torture is not an effective means of interrogating POWs, any information is almost certainly worthless by the time the victim is finally broken.

The Vietnamese objective was to break the US airmen to extract 'confessions' and 'denunciations' for propaganda. The Pentagon began the SERE program in an attempt to avoid or at least mitigate similar embarrassments in future conflicts.

It is not just the timing of the torture that is suspicious therefore, the techniques themselves are suspicious. At a time when Cheney is known to be looking for any evidence that might be used to support a claim of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link the Pentagon stops using the techniques known to be most effective for interrogation on their prime Al Qaeda prisoners and instead begins to use techniques known to be most effective for brainwashing.

The timing and the techniques provide two pieces of the puzzle. The destruction of the torture tapes provide a third. The fact that the administration had employed torture was already known at the time that the tapes were destroyed. The surviving records will almost certainly reveal the names of the staff involved. Destruction of the tapes clearly served no intelligence purpose and was clearly not going to be sufficient to derail the investigation into the use of torture during interrogations that had already begun. The only reason to destroy the tapes would be if it demonstrated that the purpose of the torture was for something other than interrogation, such as brainwashing the prisoner into confessing to the existence of a fictious Iraq-Al Qaeda relationship.

If the purpose of the torture is in fact proved to have been brainwashing rather than interrogation it changes the game entirely. The infamous Yoo and Bybee memos do not provide immunity for the use of torture in a brainwashing program, nor does the immunity provided by Congress.

All of which makes the current GOP attacks on Pelosi more understandable. The GOP can probably survive a truth commission into the use of torture for interrogations, but it knows that even its bedrock support in the heartlands is not going to forgive it if the scope of the commission expands to considering the fabrication of evidence used to make the case for a disastrous war.

(also posted to Talking Points Memo Cafe)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Howard Kurtz - Specter Skates -

Howard Kurtz writes: "There was, of course, no way to predict that Bush's second term would be sunk by Katrina, bloody chaos in Iraq and a financial meltdown that would require a massive bank bailout."

Oh really? I admit that back in 2000 there was no way that anyone could have predicted that Bush's second term would have been sunk by bloody chaos in Iraq. But the failure of the war was already apparent by the 2004 election. That is why Howard Dean was a serious contender for the nomination. If anything the situation in Iraq improved after 2004. What folk reacted against was the fact that their original support for the war had been obtained through lies.

Katrina, being a natural disaster was genuinely unpredictable. But the indifference, incompetence and cronyism it exposed were visible to anyone who bothered to look from day one of the Bush administration.

The extent of the financial meltdown was mostly a surprise, but plenty of bloggers had been warning of the CDO issue for years and Warren Buffet had dubbed them 'Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction'.

What Kurtz really means is that nobody Howard Kurtz knows and talks to predicted any of this stuff and he cannot imagine a world in which his circle of beltway cronies might not know what is really going on.