Just A Bunch Of Right-Wingers Sitting Around Talking... About How Best To Torture People! If This Was A Movie Script, No One Would Believe It
Partially hyperlinked to sources. For all sources, see the data resources page.
Greetings, you're listening to podcast number 124 of Blast The Right. I'm your host, Jack Clark. Great to have you on board.
Today you're going to hear an unbelievable, yet-every-fact-is-true scenario. It's about how it came to pass that meetings were held in the White House discussing how best to torture prisoners.
Also, be sure to stay around for my closing comments. You'll learn about Blast The Right transcripts, as well as about some listeners going the activist route. And there's also a new tune to close the show with.
Let's get right into it.
My sources are: ABC News, the Associated Press, the Wayback Machine internet archives website, humanrightsfirst.org, thinkprogress.org, Youtube for some audio, the Washington Post, aclu.org, and England's Sunday Times.
Every week it seems, there's a new revelation, even more hard to believe than the last one, about the Bush administration's lust for war and torture.
I don't know about you, but after a point, do you start to just file them away mentally, saying to yourself, I'll think about that later?
It takes on the air of unreality: each individual revelation by itself, of course, but exponentially more so, cumulatively.
It's almost too much to accept as reality, as something that you have to deal with.
If I had a 2 hour show, I could easily fill it up with this subject. Heck forget about 2 hours. I could do a 24-hour marathon.
Since neither you nor I have the time for that, I've picked some highlights here. Often the bizarre, unfortunately, the bizarrely evil, doings of the right-wing over the past decade or so.
Every fact you're about to hear is true.
If it was presented as a movie script, no one would believe it.
In fact, let's imagine I'm pitching such a script to a producer.
How might the script open?
How about this scene:
You see a meeting room, and from what's visible through the window, it could be within the White House. You can't make out who's talking, but it sounds like they're discussing what?! Whether they can combine water-boarding with stress positions for a prisoner named Muhammad?
Who are these people? Low level operatives sneaking in a meeting at, could it really be, the White House? About an illegal subject?
But before you can find out more, you leave that scene and enter a long series of flashbacks, which show how this maybe-in-the-White House cabal came to meet.
You first see a bunch of right-wingers of the neocon variety openly plotting for US world domination.
In 1997, neocons like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush and others sign the founding charter for an organization called the Project for a New American Century, PNAC for short.
As you hear them talk, come to think of it, Cheney and Rumsfeld bring to mind two of the people at that White House meeting the movie opened with.
Anyway, PNAC officials proudly release a document in the year 2000 entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century."
This PNAC report asserts that "retaining forward-based forces in the region" -- the mideast Gulf region -- is "an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests" there. It ominously adds that the "unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification."
This neocon roadmap gloriously sums itself up when it declares:
At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible.
In other words, the US must continue to dominate the world, and establishing military bases in Iraqi is one of the means.
The scene closes with this, the most infamous line in the report:
[T]he process of transformation…is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.
A new Pearl Harbor will enable PNAC to implement its agenda more quickly.
You can imagine that by now, the producer hearing this movie pitch is starting to wonder about all this.
But continuing on with the script:
Flash forward to November and December, year 2000.
George W. the brother of PNAC founding member Jeb Bush, is installed as President by Republican justices on the US Supreme Court.
PNAC founder Dick Cheney is Vice-President. PNAC signatory Donald Rumsfeld is Defense Secretary. PNAC signatory Paul Wolfowitz is deputy secretary of defense. Other PNAC figures infest the entire national security apparatus.
Now you listen as Paul O'Neill, Bush's Treasury Secretary, tells the co-author of a book he's writing, that from their very first days in office, long before 9/11, the Bushians start discussing the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and dividing up the oil.
From their very first days in office, these right-wing, neocon Bushians actively plotted their Iraq invasion.
You see the Twin Towers fall.
The neocons get their new Pearl Harbor, the September 11 attacks.
The War on Terror is declared.
A week later, PNAC writes a letter to Bush, saying that regardless of Saddam Hussein's relationship or not to the attacks or to Al Qaeda, he must be ousted.
Flash forward again, to March 2003. The Iraq invasion begins.
Now if you were pitching all this so far as a movie script, who would believe it? Right-wingers bent on world domination take over the US government, and just happen to receive as a present a domestic Pearl Harbor to give them cover to rapidly effectuate their schemes?
A pretty amazing scenario you've seen so far, yes?
Well, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Up next, the plot thickens even further.
Continuing on with the script:
The War on Terror is in full swing.
But these US officials of the PNAC variety, as well as others, don't feel that their questioning of captured suspected terrorists is going well. They want new and improved methods.
You now see a scene of Nazi interrogators torturing their prisoners with stress positions, extreme heat and cold, sleep deprivation. The torturers smugly tell each other, that their Verschärfte Verneh-mung" is working well. That phrase in a subtitle is accurately translated as "enhanced interrogation techniques."
The scene with Nazis fades into a scene of Soviet interrogators using the same techniques, and adding waterboarding.
Then the scene shifts to US officials, early 2000's, deciding to incorporate these Nazi-Soviet torture techniques into the American repertoire.
As the American officials discuss waterboarding, scenes of the Inquisition using waterboarding on its "heretics," its victims, flash before you.
So do newspaper stories of how the US military prosecuted its own soldiers for waterboarding prisoners during the Spanish-American War and Vietnam, not to mention Japanese after World War II for waterboarding American prisoners.
You see a montage of newspaper stories since the early 1900's describing this technique as water torture.
Yet despite all this, you now see President Bush, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Attorney General John Ashcroft sign a presidential finding, approving waterboarding and these other techniques.
OK, the long extended flashback is over.
You can't believe who's there!
Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Condoleeza Rice is chairing the meeting.
Imagine being the proverbial fly on the wall in that room!
An aide explains to another that this is called the Principals Committee, and that they've held dozens of these meetings so far.
They're discussing which of the enhanced interrogation techniques can be used on which prisoners.
A CIA officer comes in and demonstrates the techniques for the officials.
Then they start discussing.
Will so and so be deprived of sleep? Kept in stressful positions? Waterboarded?
The discussions get really detailed. How many times can each technique be used on a given prisoner?
CIA Director Tenet makes the case that techniques should be used in combination. The others agree.
Now you see cross-cutting back and forth, between CIA and military officials torturing prisoners using these techniques, and, the creation of the legal cover for doing so.
Justice Department lawyers talk of their finishing the so-called Golden Shield, a 2002 legal memo. It narrowed down the definition of torture to cover only acts causing pain at an intensity similar to that accompanying organ failure or death.
Other scenes show CIA agents in the field repeatedly cabling headquarters, seeking approval for their specific plans on how to use the enhanced interrogation techniques on a specific prisoner.
Everyone is trying to cover their butts.
Meanwhile, you see at least 8 people die from torture in US custody. Scores of other prisoner deaths are suspicious.
As interrogators discover prisoners have died, we hear in a voiceover some of the right-wingers minimizing the offensiveness of these torture techniques:
Here's Bill O'Reilly:
You have powerful forces in America who are basically saying they don't care if it saves lives - we would rather have more Americans die, have more terror attacks on our home soil, than dunk these people in water. (this is shortened)
O'Reilly: [Y]ou have powerful forces in America...
Guest: The Establishment!
O'Reilly: The Washington Post, etc....yeah...they're basically saying "We don't care if it saved lives..." (because you cannot deny what Tenet and Scheur have just said.) "We don't care. We would rather have Americans die, more terror attacks on our home soil, than dunk these people in the water!"
Not to mention the author of one of the torture memos going even further beyond the pale:
Questioner: If the President deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there's no law that can stop that. No treaty. And also no law by Congress. That's what you wrote in the August, 2002 memo.
Yoo: I think that depends on why the President feels that he needs to do that.
Ah, but nothing ever goes smoothly, even for evildoers like the neocons.
The Golden Shield memo is leaked to the press. It's withdrawn by a newly installed Justice Department official.
The Attorney General, Ashcroft, who thinks what they're doing is legal, still is aware of the unseemliness of it all. He argues that senior administration officials shouldn't be involved in the details of harsh interrogations. He says:
Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.
A bit of an understatement.
But National Security Advisor Rice doesn't care. It's full speed ahead. When CIA officials later come to the Principals Committee asking for the okay to continue the torture techniques, Rice brushes aside concerns, and tells the CIA, "This is your baby. Go do it."
Go do it, indeed.
But more trouble is brewing for the torture program. Not from human rights advocates outside the government. But from other law enforcement officials within the government. Stay tuned.
Are they collecting evidence against some foreign dictator?
No, they're discussing interrogations they've witnessed, conducted by the US military and the CIA against War on Terror prisoners. Subfiles are labeled Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan, Iraq.
As they continue speaking in a voice-over, we see some of the incidents they're discussing:
A female interrogator bends back a prisoner's thumbs, then squeezes his genitals. He grimaces in pain.
Another interrogator cuffs two prisoners and forces water down their throats.
As you witness these scenes, you hear a US Senator denouncing such practices. This is Hillary Clinton, not one of the more dovish Democratic Senators. You may be no big fan of her, nor of her husband. I'm not. But her words here are powerful nevertheless:
When General Washington led his soldiers across the Delaware River and on to victory in the Battle of Trenton, he captured nearly 1000 foreign mercenaries, and he faced a crucial choice. How would General Washington treat these prisoners?
The British had already committed atrocities against Americans, including torture. As David Hackett Fisher described in his Pulitzer-prize-winning book, Washington's Crossing, thousands of American prisoners of war were treated with extreme cruelty by their British captors.
There are accounts of injured soldiers who surrendered being murdered instead of quartered. Countless Americans dying in prison hulks in New York Harbor. Starvation and other acts of inhumanity perpetrated against Americans confined to churches in New York City…
General Washington announced a decision unique in human history, sending the following order for handling prisoners:
Treat them with humanity and let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren.
George Washington understood that how you treat enemy combatants can reverberate around the world.
At this point, the agents stop discussing what they've witnessed, and turn to efforts to stop these practices.
One of them complains that it's like trench warfare, battling these other US government organizations.
You see the agents present their case to a senior FBI official, the head of counterterrorism efforts.
He agrees that the enhanced interrogation techniques are less effective than the FBI's well-developed non-coercive measures. He laments that such coercive techniques will taint any future prosecutions. And he deplores the fact that use of such methods helps Al Qaeda in spreading negative views of the US.
But we shift to various shots of more senior FBI officials, as well as to higher-ups in the Justice Department, the Defense Department, and the National Security Council. Each in turn looks at the FBI agents' complaints, and shakes his head in disagreement, and closes the file.
Nothing is done about the agents' complaints.
We cut to the office of an FBI senior official. The superimposed screen title says 2003. The official orders the agents' "war crimes file" closed. He says the FBI will simply have no more involvement with the CIA interrogations. Beyond that, the FBI will take no action about what its agents have seen.
How does this script close, how does this story end? Up next!
The final act you see of our script unfolds in present day 2008 America, with ABC News revealing the existence of the White House torture meetings.
Asked about these secret sessions, the president, George W. Bush, makes light of their disclosure.
I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved. I don't know what's new about that; I'm not so sure what's so startling about that.
ABC News dryly reports exactly why it's so startling:
[B]efore Wednesday's report, the extraordinary level of involvement by the most senior advisers in repeatedly approving specific interrogation plans -- down to the number of times the CIA could use a certain tactic on a specific al Qaeda prisoner -- had never been disclosed. (abc)
Reaction to this stunning disclosure is not exactly overwhelming.
Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts does blast the news.
"Who would have thought that in the United States of America in the 21st century, the top officials of the executive branch would routinely gather in the White House to approve torture?" Kennedy said in a statement.
"Long after President Bush has left office, our country will continue to pay the price for his administration's renegade repudiation of the rule of law and fundamental human rights." (ap confirming abc story)
The American Civil Liberties Union is also appalled at the high-level torture mongering.
Its executive director says
"We have always known that the CIA's use of torture was approved from the very top levels of the U.S. government, yet the latest revelations about knowledge from the president himself and authorization from his top advisers only confirms our worst fears
The ACLU demands an independent prosecutor be appointed to investigate possible violations of the War Crimes Act and the federal Anti-torture Act.
Why an independent prosecutor? You see another ACLU official explain that
No one in the executive branch of government can be trusted to fairly investigate or prosecute any crimes since the head of every relevant department, along with the president and vice president, either knew or participated in the planning and approval of illegal acts,
Congress cannot look the other way; it must demand an independent investigation and independent prosecutor."
But the rest of the nation seems to yawn.
And suddenly you shift scenes to find a final unpleasant plot twist.
Sort of a Carrie, hand-coming-out-of-the-ground scenario.
You first see on screen one of those countdown clocks showing the days-hours-minutes and -seconds left in the Bush administration. You think, at least, thank goodness, Bush and all of them will soon be gone.
But then you swoop in to the campaign headquarters of the Republican candidate for President, John McCain
As you see McCain speaking to some of his top aides and advisors, titles on screen identify them as former PNAC big shots.
McCain's formal chief foreign policy advisor: a former Project Director at PNAC.
Informal campaign advisor Bill Kristol: a PNAC co-founder
Informal campaign advisor John Bolton: a PNAC signatory
Then you see and hear, in his own words, that McCain seems to have signed onto the PNAC agenda lock, stock and barrel.
Permanent military bases in Iraq, a prime PNAC goal? McCain's on board:
Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years — (cut off by McCain)
McCAIN: Make it a hundred.
Q: Is that … (cut off)
McCAIN: We’ve been in South Korea … we’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea 50 years or so. That would be fine with me. As long as Americans …
Q: [tries to say something]
McCAIN: As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Queada is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day.
Even more frightening -- you don't even need any scary movie music for this -- is that McCain doesn't plan to stop with Iraq, as he nonchalantly guarantees that even more bloodshed will follow:
There’s going to be other wars. I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender, but there will be other wars.
In a sign that may be ominous, or just a coincidence, the last scene written so far in the script, shows that the PNAC website -- yes, all this time PNAC and all its documents, letters and other info, has been available on a very public website -- the PNAC website is suddenly taken down.
But you then see a skilled computer user show that through internet archive sites, the PNAC website can still be pulled up.
They can't cover their tracks that easily.
Well, that's as far as I've gotten in the script.
Quite a sweep of history.
From the Inquisition several centuries ago, to the 21st century White House.
Of course, as I told you at the outset here today, this wasn't a fictional script, not a word of it. Everything I said happened, really did happen.
Right-wingers have openly plotted to dominate the world, and have publicly embraced torture as one of their tools to do so.
It may be unbelievable. No doubt, if it had been pitched as a novel or film script 10 years ago, you would have been tossed out on your ear.
But it all really has happened, a 1984 dystopia.
Brought to you courtesy of Right-Wing Productions. Directed by Dick Cheney. Junior played by George W. Bush.
It was only in the last few weeks that the existence of the White House torture meetings, and the FBI agents' war crimes file, came to light. That's what led me to envision all this as a movie script too far-fetched to be believed.
By the way, for much more detail about PNAC, check out podcast 58. About the Nazi and Soviet pedigrees of the Bush administration's beloved enhanced interrogation techniques, podcasts 98 and 109.
To close, what should you look for in the near future?
For one thing, Rep. John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan and head of the House Judiciary Committee, will hold hearings in a few weeks focusing on the FBI report which revealed the "war crimes file" kept by the unhappy agents.
On a broader scale, here's what an ACLU official said:
Congress is duty-bound by the Constitution not only to hold the president, vice president, and all civil officers to account, but it must also send a message to future presidents that it will use its constitutional powers to prevent illegal, and immoral conduct.
This applies to all the right-wing, PNAC atrocities you've heard me cover here today.
All these evildoers need to be held accountable for all their misdeeds.
No one knows right now what the ending of the script will be.
I guess that's up to me and you.
First order of business in my book: stopping the PNAC neocons dead in their tracks, by making darn sure McCain and his PNAC cohorts don’t take power in January, 2009.