Michael's Dispatches

Dark Times

06 March 2009

While I work on dispatches regarding torture, it appears that some people are getting what they want; many have asked for proof that torture occurred, and that torture be defined.  These questions are fair and important.  Yet it seems that these questions often are asked with an air of smugness that the questions cannot or will not be answered.  The issue is sharply politicized and so truth will hide under the nearest rock.  My views on torture, partially shaped by battlefield experience, are apolitical.  They are merely pragmatic based on life experience.

There is a gathering storm and it promises to wreak havoc.  It would be sad to see CIA agents prosecuted for following orders, but this subject goes to the heart of darkness and is by nature a swamp where everybody involved will get bitten.  Every American soldier knows that following orders is his or her duty, and to ignore an order could result in imprisonment, or even execution.  But every soldier is also trained that to perform unlawful orders is unlawful.  For instance, if a General orders a Captain to line up unarmed non-combatants and shoot them for no reason, the action would constitute murder.  A war crime.  The Captain could claim he was only following orders, but that might not save him because he is a military professional and knows better.  (A fact from the battlefields: I have many times witnessed American officers and sergeants from the Army and Marines, protecting prisoners from the wrath of Iraqis, but it is a fact that Iraqis often torture prisoners.)  If the soldier were 19 years-old and executed an unlawful order from a high ranking sergeant or officer, maybe the court would have mercy, and I certainly would view the circumstance differently.  But who knows what a judge would say?

And so it appears that we are facing dark times on this issue.  CIA officers might soon be accused of torturing prisoners.

Thoughtful comments are encouraged.  Especially those that rise above the fact that the names "Bush" and "Obama" are involved.  This issue is bigger than you and I, and it's bigger than any President.

CIA Veterans Blast Senate Probe of Operations Under Bush

By Bobby Ghosh
Washington Friday, Mar. 06, 2009

.....But even Agency veterans winced at the latest bombshell from Gitmo: the revelation that the CIA destroyed 92 videotapes that may have shown detainees being subjected to harsh interrogation techniques. "It would have been my instinct to say that these [videotapes] are the sort of thing we have to keep," says Ford.

For the CIA staffers who may come under scrutiny in the Leahy and Feinstein investigations, there's some consolation in the fact that their new boss is in their corner. Former Congressman and Clinton White House chief of staff Leon Panetta has promised to cooperate with Congress, saying, "I think that we have a responsibility to be transparent on these issues and to provide them that information." But during his confirmation hearings by Feinstein's Committee, Panetta made it clear he doesn't support the prosecution of CIA staff involved in detention and interrogation of terror suspects, saying they were simply following guidelines issued by the Bush administration. At a media roundtable last week, Panetta returned to the theme: "I would not support any investigation or a prosecution of those individuals. I think they did their job, they did it pursuant to the guidance that was provided them, whether you agreed or disagreed with it."

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