Still Crazy After All These Years

Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay of Knight Ridder report that many former and some current CIA operatives are opposing the Dick’s effort to exempt the CIA from a ban on mistreatment of detainees.

“We ought to declare we don’t do this. We ought to declare the intelligence isn’t worth it,” said Frank Anderson, a former chief of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia division in the agency’s Operations Directorate, the clandestine service.

There’s also the question of what brutality does to those who carry it out, Anderson said.

“I will rebel against anyone who wants my son to torture, because it won’t ever heal,” he said, speaking at a conference this week sponsored by the Middle East Institute.

Anderson’s views were echoed, with some variation, in interviews with a half-dozen current and former CIA and military officers with extensive field experience. Retired and active officers made similar arguments against abusing prisoners, but none of the current CIA or military officers would agree to speak on the record because they aren’t authorized to talk to the media.

Robert Baer, a former CIA covert officer who worked in Iraq and elsewhere, said he recently spent time in an Israeli prison, talking with detainees from the radical Palestinian groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas for a British documentary about suicide bombers.

The Israelis, Baer said, have learned that they can gain valuable information by establishing personal relationships with the inmates and gaining their trust.

“They found that torture, abusive tactics, made things overall worse for them politically,” Baer said. “The Israelis are friendly with their prisoners. They play cards with them and allow them to contact their families. They are getting in their minds to determine what makes up a suicide bomber.

However, Ron Hutcheson of Knight Ridder reports that the Dick isn’t backing down:

“There seems to be a kind of collective consciousness that he’s become weakened,” said Steven Clemons, a foreign policy specialist at the New America Foundation, a public-policy group that seeks to bridge partisan differences. “He’s going to continue to matter, but is he going to matter as much as he did before? Probably not.” …

… Most politicians in Cheney’s situation would scramble to change course, but he isn’t like most politicians. Days after Libby resigned, Cheney replaced him with David Addington, another longtime adviser, who helped draft a 2002 memo defending the use of torture in some circumstances.

The vice president courted more controversy by taking the lead role in trying to exempt the CIA from a ban on cruel and inhumane interrogation techniques.

“I just don’t think he cares,” said Rich Galen, a Republican consultant and a Cheney defender. “He believes that we are, in fact, at war. When you’re at war, you can’t be distracted by these kinds of things. He’s going to move ahead.”

And, of course, it never occurs to him that he might actually be wrong about anything.

When Bush first came to Washington, Cheney was widely viewed as the experienced, steady hand in an untested White House. Now he’s more likely to be pilloried as the hawk who helped push the president into a messy war that could drag on for years.

Longtime associates say Cheney has become obsessed with the threat of terrorism, especially the possibility of a biological, chemical or nuclear attack. By Bush’s own description, the vice president was “gung-ho” for war with Iraq well before the president committed to it.

Republicans who once bit their tongues or limited their criticism of Cheney to the cocktail circuit are starting to go public. Associates from Cheney’s days as defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush say they don’t understand him.


…I’ll never worry
Why should I?
It’s all gonna fade

Now I sit by my window
And I watch the cars
I fear I’ll do some damage
One fine day
But I would not be convicted
By a jury of my peers
Still crazy after all these years
Oh, still crazy
Still crazy
Still crazy after all these years …

Update: Via BillmonLaura Rozen at War and Piece says torture is a tactic for losers.

I was in a torture chamber once, in the basement of a police station in Kosovo days after it was abandoned by Serb forces defeated by Nato. It was hideous as you would imagine. The British soldiers who were with me were equally shocked. A lot of the instruments and interrogation drugs I saw there also suggest they were not designed to cause organ failure or death in their victims, just pain and terror, as Mr. Cheney and his office mates suggest is what they are going for in terms of legal wiggle room. And like Mr. Cheney and his office mates, Mr. Milosevic and his Serb troops didn’t seem to overly concern themselves with the Geneva conventions, until it was a bit late. Having laid my eyes on what such a scene looks like, I just associate such activities with the forces of not only the pathological and depraved, but those who are headed for defeat. If you’ve seen it, you realize in a way that’s hard to explain, it’s the tactics of the losers. If Cheney and his office mates haven’t had the experience, perhaps they should. And I really don’t think it’s inconceivable that the remote possibility of the Hague may lie in some of their futures. Things change fast when they do, as history shows, and they could find their current willing protectors eventually chucked from office, and a whole new climate at home and abroad.

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