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Paul Wolfowitz and the Senate Torture Report

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[GTMO Interrogation and Control Element Chief] Mr. [David] Becker also told the Committee that, on several occasions, MG [Major General] Dunlavey had advised him that the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz had called to express concerns to him about the insufficient intelligence production at GTMO.  Mr. Becker recalled MG Dunlavey telling him after one of these calls, that the Deputy Secretary himself said that GTMO should use more aggressive interrogation techniques…

MG Miller said that, while he was in Command at GTMO, he had direct discussions with the DoD’s [Department of Defense’s] General Counsel office and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD SO/LIC). MG Miller also testified to the IG that he and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz “talked once a week while I was in Guantanamo.”  Lt Col Ted Moss, the JTF-GTMO ICE chief who began his tour of duty at GTMO in Dec. 2002, said that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was in phone contact with MG Miller “a lot” (pp. 73-74).

–U.S. Senate’s Inquiry into Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody, pp. 40-41, 73-74.  

Let us say we accept—just for the moment, and for the sake of argument—the proposition boldly argued by some on cable news that the “procedures” used at Guantanamo and black sites around the world might be justifiable in order to realize certain ends. To prevent another terrorist attack on the U.S., for example. Or to obtain intelligence that could lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden.

I don’t accept these arguments, personally. I consider them morally bankrupt. But I can see rational people—including those who lead more or less moral daily lives—nodding their heads in acceptance, as we are trained to do.

But what about the employment of torture to force captive victims to read from a script, and be forced to “confess” things that are simply not true? Such as: “Yes, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is working with bin Laden and al-Qaeda! Yes, they are close allies! Please stop hurting me!”  What do the torture apologists think about that?

What does “insufficient intelligence production” mean, on page 40 in the Senate’s “Inquiry into Treatment of Detainees” report?  Insufficient evidence for what?

For new al-Qaeda attacks being planned on the U.S.? Insufficient evidence for the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden?

Or insufficient evidence for Paul Wolfowitz’s emphatic contention—now totally discredited, to anyone paying attention—that al-Qaeda had deep connections to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq?

We know that immediately following the 9/11 attacks Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Wolfowitz’s boss and longtime friend, with whom he shared power equally in the Defense Department) had advocated U.S. attacks on Iraq because, as Rumsfeld put it, there were “no good targets” in Afghanistan. He was hot to trot on Iraq even before the phony case for war had been manufactured.

We know from the account of George W. Bush’s counterterrorism advisor Richard A. Clarke that Bush took him aside after a meeting and “testily” and “in a very intimidating way” asked him to find evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks. (Clarke has stated repeatedly that the administration he served is guilty of war crimes.)

We know that, when he reported there was no such evidence, Clarke’s paper was returned with the note “please update and resubmit.” We know that Britain’s top MI6 officer reported to Prime Minister Blair in July 2003 that in the U.S. “intelligence and facts were being fixed around policy” as both countries prepared to attack Iraq.

We know that to augment the meager evidence that the existing, vast U.S. intelligence apparatus was able to deliver in support of war on Iraq, a super-secret “Office of Special Plans” was established in the Pentagon to contrive or cherry pick information that could be shoveled to willing agents in the press to help shape public opinion. We know that the all-powerful vice president, Dick Cheney, visited the CIA in the Pentagon with his neocon chief of staff “Scooter” Libby to browbeat the intelligence professionals into including bogus content in their reports.

We know the war was based on lies. Not on “intelligence failures” attributed to CIA and other intelligence professionals, but on deliberately generated and collected, carefully marketed, calculated lies.

To me, the details in the Senate report concerning the abuse of often totally innocent people are less damning than the evidence that a key reason for the torture was to produce “intelligence” that could be used to build the case for war on Iraq. That splendid little war that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the neocon cabal within the Defense and State Departments, and the all-powerful Office of the Vice President, so deeply craved. That war that destroyed Iraq, killed half a million people, spurred sectarianism, forced millions to flee, generated ongoing civil war and produced the child-beheading ISIL.

Do we not know that in early 1999, Bush made his intentions clear to Mickey Herskowitz, a former Houston Chronicle sports columnist who’d been signed on to ghostwrite his autobiography? At that time mused the spoiled rich white boy, the ambitious, one time dope-dealing, coke snorting, alcoholic frat boy and failed businessman:

“One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade—if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”

This from a man whose Harvard Business School professor Yoshi Tsurumi recalls as pompous, privileged, arrogant clown who in one class “made this ridiculous statement and when I asked him to explain, he said, ‘The government doesn’t have to help poor people — because they are lazy.’” This from the man whom while Texas governor, sleeping half the day, mocked death row inmate Karla Tucker Faye, impersonating her on camera, pursing his lips in mock desperation and whimpering, “Please don’t kill me!”

“Dubya” got his chance to invade. The deeply depraved human beings running the U.S. government during his years in office were happy to use  the disinformation supplied by Ahmad Chalabi, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi (“Curveball”), Ayad Allawi and other neocon allies (who were actually shunned by the CIA as unreliable sources) to build a case. That case was presented in most detail in Colin Powell’s now infamous, totally discredited address to the United Nations in February 2003.

Anyone paying attention now knows that the entirely of that speech, designed to win UN approval for an assault on Iraq, was 100% disinformation. (Powell himself had at one White House meeting tossed a draft of the speech into the air, pronouncing it “bullshit.” And he has subsequently made it clear through his former chief-of-staff that he is ashamed of his role in that grotesque charade.)

After the 2008 election the incoming Barack Obama administration declined to prosecute the liars, the propagandists, the media-manipulators responsible for confusing and terrifying the people into supporting war. And now, while bemoaning the reality of CIA-administered torture “in the past,” President Obama nevertheless upholds the torturers as “patriots” and asks us, as he did in 2008, to just “move on.”

He is in his wonted middle, moderate posture; if he called the Iraq War itself a “strategic blunder,” he perhaps sees prolonged sensory deprivation, rectal feeding, threats of relatives’ rape or murder, and death by hypothermia as similar “blunders.”  He seems unable to recognize sheer evil within the power structure he heads. He just dryly concedes, “mistakes were made.”

(Yes. As they were in Auschwitz. But why dwell on the past? Let’s move on now and think about the future!)

The newly released Senate report clearly reveals that much of the torture was designed specifically to build a case for war. It shows that the Libyan Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi captured by Pakistani officials in November 2001 as he sought to flee Afghanistan, where he’d been involved in a (non-al-Qaeda) jihadi group, cooperated with the U.S. while in confinement on the Bagram Air Base and gave the FBI details about Richard Reid (the shoe bomber). Al-Libi’s interrogators found the English speaker “genuinely friendly;” he bonded with one of them, a devout Christian, and they discussed religion extensively.

Things changed when al-Libi was handed over to the CIA and transferred to Egyptian torturers. To them he supposedly divulged details of the ties Wolfowitz wanted so badly to establish. Saddam had given al-Qaeda explosives training, the torture victim said. Saddam had transferred biological and chemical weapons to al-Qaeda. Al-Libi later repudiated his statements, nothing the obvious: they were made under torture. But these formed a crucial piece of the Bush-Cheney drive for war against Iraq. Powell told the (skeptical) UN General Assembly in February 2003:  “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to Al Qaida. Fortunately, this operative is now detained.” The torture of al-Libi was thus a strategic triumph—in a war waged against the minds of the American people.

One can’t cite too often the insightful comments of the Nazi Reischsmarschall Hermann Göring, interviewed by the U.S. psychologist Gustave Gilbert in his Nuremberg cell in January 1946:

Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Paul Wolfowitz, a student of Leo Strauss, knows very well the power of what his University of Chicago mentor called “the Noble Lie.” He knew, right after 9/11, that the moment was right to conquer Iraq. The people of this country were shocked, grief-stricken, afraid. And—fortunately for the neocons—generally ignorant of Middle Eastern realities.

(How many people in this country were likely to protest: “Wait, this doesn’t make sense. The Iraqi government is led by a secular party that respects religious diversity, women’s rights, and allows alcohol sales and rock ‘n roll on the radio. Al-Qaeda considers the Iraqi regime “communist” and wants to overthrow it. These are mutual enemies, for God’s sake; why would they cooperate?”)

And so the people of this country were sitting ducks for a massive propaganda campaign that would conflate all Muslim foes (al-Qaeda Sunni fanatics, Iraqi secularist Baathists, the PLO, the Syrian Allawite leadership, Shiite Iran, Muslim guerrillas in the southern Philippines, etc.) as “terrorists” to be targeted in an endless War on Terror. They were vulnerable to a Big Lie campaign involving the active complicity of journalists like the New York Times’ Judith Miller and the Atlantic’s embedded journalist (and former Israeli prison guard) Jeffrey Goldberg, who actually reported that Saddam was supporting a Kurdish Iraqi al-Qaeda faction producing chemical weapons in 2002. Utter fantasy, but oh, so useful to Goldberg’s patrons!

Few bothered to question the very idea that Saddam Hussein, committed to secularism and deeply hostile to Islamic fundamentalism, would make common cause with al-Qaeda.

Which is to say: Wolfowitz & Co. exploited American ignorance, racism and Islamophobia to achieve their objective: the cruel humiliation and destruction of Iraq, Israel’s most formidable Arab foe. And then, as it became clear that the war on Iraq had been based on lies (or what were routinely termed by the corporate media “ intelligence failures”)  they gingerly stepped aside, Wolfowitz left in June 2005, Elliott Abrams in February 2005, Douglas Feith (head of the “Office of Special Plans” or as Mother Jones called it, “the Lie Factory”) in August 2005, “Scooter” Libby in October 2005. (Richard Perle, Defense Policy Board chairman, had stepped down March 2003 when confronted with accusations of taking bribes.)

In 2006 the war-mongering neocon Project for a New American Century shut down, noting that the “think tank” had not been intended to last forever. But its board smugly observed: “Our view has been adopted.” Yes indeed. Success.

The masterminds of a war that wrecked a country, inflicted torture on Iraqis in Iraq and globally—just as they had on real or imagined enemies captured in Afghanistan—then sidled off stage. Few noticed as they tiptoed out with blood on their hands.

Wolfowitz was richly rewarded for his services by President Bush who nominated him as head of the World Bank. (World Bank rules call for the World Bank president to be a U.S. appointee.) What more eloquent statement of the unity of military, political and economic power? Although lacking any banking experience, and indeed viewed askance by World Bank officials, Wolfowitz was unanimously approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. Less than two years later he was obliged to resign for breaking ethical and governing rules in arranging a generous pay and promotion package for his companion, a Lynne Cheney protégé who happens to be an Israeli-friendly Arab of Libyan, Syrian, Saudi and Turkish extraction. It was the appropriate conclusion to Wolfowitz’s storied career.

In 1976 under the Ford administration, Wolfowitz played a key role in “Team B,” a group of experts outside the CIA headed by the despicable neocon Richard Pipes amassed to challenge the CIA’s assessment of Soviet military strength. It greatly exaggerated that strength, and Soviet intentions. Totally mainstream journalist Fareed Zakaria among many others has noted that the specific conclusions of the report  “were wildly off the mark.” But the team empowered during the Reagan years pushed for the massive military build-up including “Star Wars” that helped produce the collapse of the Soviet Union. With half the U.S.’s GDP, but the need to maintain military parity, the Soviets were obliged to painfully substitute guns for butter producing widespread disillusionment.

The USSR buckled between 1990-91, to the ongoing regret of most people who lived in it, and who continue to tell pollsters that things were better under the old order, when everybody at least had jobs, homes, education, and health care.

Wolfowitz would perhaps say, “Okay, so we skewed the intel about Soviet strength. And during the Reagan administration we convinced the senile Hollywood president (of whom close friend Margaret Thatcher once said, “poor dear, there’s nothing between his ears”) to read our scripts. But so what? Look at what we accomplished: the fall of our enemy, the USSR.”

Wolfowitz was a prime author of the doctrine of  “full spectrum dominance,” according to which in the triumphant post-Cold War period there must  be no new rivals to U.S. dominance on land, sea, air, or space and U.S. economic and political dominance of the world.  Put more plainly:  the U.S. must, as a matter of policy and official state doctrine, rule the world.

Nowadays, Wolfowitz lays low, hanging out alongside other discredited neocons, including Richard Perle, John Bolton, and Lynne Cheney, at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington D.C.  He is designated a “senior fellow”—a title connoting a lifetime of dignified achievement. This is not like being a Rhodes fellow (like Bill Clinton was), or a Japan Foundation Fellow (as I was), or a Fulbright Fellow (as I was twice). It’s a hollow title conferred by a small team of propagandists designed to confer gravitas on the recipient and facilitate media access.

(Notice how often someone interviewed on cable news is merely identified as a “fellow” of the AEI, Family Research Council, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Hudson Institute, etc.—as though this designation confers some sort of legitimacy or authority? It’s not an earned academic status; it’s a farcical credential designed to dignify the propagandist as the honoree of a  body that consists of more than a handful of fellow ideologues.)

I would hope that when Wolfowitz next arrives at a European airport he is taken aside and informed that he is under arrest, under the Geneva Convention and UN Charter, for multiple crimes. I would not recommend torture or even the humiliating orange suit but just a legitimate, thorough trial, and following his conviction, solitary confinement for life. Sufficient un-tortured intelligence has been collected to justify this result for his crimes.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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