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The release of some of the Bush administration torture memos now presents the Obama administration with a crucial dilemma. President Obama at first exonerated CIA officials responsible for the euphemistic “enhanced interrogation” techniques. The White House has even expunged the word “torture” from its vocabulary. The bulk of corporate media favors a whitewash. Pepe Escobar argues the question is not that the memos should have been kept secret – as the CIA and former Vice-President Dick Cheney wanted. The question is that those who broke the rule of law must be held accountable. Responding to growing public outrage, the White House shifted gears and is now leaving the door open for the work of a Special Prosecutor.

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PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST, TRNN: Five years after the Abu Ghraib scandal, here’s another Abu Ghraib-style chamber of horrors, another glimpse on how the dark side really works. This is one of the Bush torture memos released by the Obama administration last week. It was written by this man. The other memos were written by this man. The New York Times has already demanded that Congress impeach [Jay] Bybee, who’s got his lifetime seat in a federal appeals court from George W. Bush. Everyone knew about it. Here’s former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who, along with Karl “Machiavelli” Rove and Lew “Scooter” Libby, was one of the leakers of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame.


Courtesy: Al Jazeera

INTERVIEWER: So when you knew that the administration of which you were a part was departing from the Geneva conventions and sidelining them, why didn’t you quit?

RICHARD ARMITAGE, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: In hindsight, maybe I should have. But you—one—in those positions, you see how many more battles you have. You maybe fool yourself. You say, “Well, how much worse would x, y, or z be if I weren’t here?”


ESCOBAR: And here’s the former executive director of the 9/11 Commission, one more player joining the “I was against it too, but in the end I did not resign” crowd. And, more crucially, here’s Armitage again on why this all may end up being another whitewash.


INTERVIEWER: And so the question is: if you don’t think that a legal process is the process, what process do you think should be followed?

ARMITAGE: Well, you might go back to what was envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. It was called congressional oversight. This is their job. I don’t think that members of the Senate particularly want to look into these things, and they might have to look at themselves in the mirror. Where were they? Where were they? They’re your representatives too. They weren’t here. They weren’t doing their job. They were AWOL, absent without leave.


ESCOBAR: Don’t expect Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate herself. Torture seems to be a bipartisan sport. Armitage also said that he and his then boss, Colin Powell, lost the battle to respect the Geneva Conventions during Bush’s first term. Japanese officers were tried for war crimes after World War II by the United States because they used waterboarding, but not Bush administration officials. Welcome once again to American exceptionalism. The question is not that the torture memos should have been kept secret, as the CIA wanted.

Courtesy: CNN

BRIG. GEN. JAMES P. CULLEN (RET’D), HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: I think that argument is really a lot of nonsense. Our enemies already know what the techniques are, because we have carried out these techniques on the enemy.

ESCOBAR: The question is how to apply justice. Austrian law professor Manfred Novak, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council top torture investigator is adamant. He said, and I quote, “President Barack Obama’s decision not to prosecute CIA operatives who used questionable interrogation practices violates international law.” But don’t expect from corporate media anything else but whitewash.

Courtesy: ABC News

WOMAN: Oh, I have reservations about all this. You know, it’s hard for me to look at it, that a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, “Oh, much good will come of that.” Sometimes in life you want to just keep walking.

ESCOBAR: People all over the world, they were hoping that these so-called Bush Six—. ‘Kay, just recapitulate. Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, John Yoo, and Jay Bybee (Yoo and Bybee from the Justice Department), and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes, they would one day catch a flight to Europe for some R&R and be arrested on the spot by judges claiming universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, just as it happened to that notorious torturer-dictator Augusto Pinochet from Chile during the late 1990s. It won’t happen. Spanish prosecutors put the ball back in the US court. But what about this gentleman?

Courtesy: FOX News

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: I’m in the Oval Office, and I am told that we have captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the professionals believe he has information necessary to secure the country. So I ask: what tools are available for us to find information from him? And they gave me a list of tools. And I said: are these tools deemed to be legal? And so we got legal opinions before any decision was made. And I think when people study the history of this particular episode, they’ll find out we gained good information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in order to protect our country.

ESCOBAR: Well, if he had studied the history, he would have learned he didn’t protect anything, as even interrogators deride torture as useless.

Courtesy: C-SPAN

ALBERTO MORA, US NAVY GENERAL COUNSEL (RET’D): Some US flag-rank officers maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of US combat deaths in Iraq, as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat, are respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. And there are others who are convinced that the proximate cause of Abu Ghraib was the legal advice authorizing abusive treatment of detainees that issued from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, 2002.

ESCOBAR: And apparently legal counsel also told the Great Decider it was okay to torture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s children with swarms of bugs. The CIA still insists waterboarding works. One hundred and eighty-three waterboarding sessions, 15 seconds a session, in one month. Who Khalid Sheikh Mohammed thought he was? Iron Man. And what about this gentleman’s “mission accomplished”?

Courtesy: CNN

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: My general sense of where we are with respect to Iraq, and at the end of, now—what?—nearly 6 years, is that we’ve accomplished nearly everything we set out to do.

ESCOBAR: Paraphrasing Tacitus, quite an accomplishment to destroy the cradle of civilized nation and call it victory. Will Obama be swayed to ship Cheney to a really accomplished destination, the Hague, so he could be tried for treason and crimes against humanity. The president says, “Never again.” But oops! Not so fast. Under Obama’s executive orders, the CIA is still engaged in extraordinary renditions and shipping suspects to overseas contractors—US allies in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. There will be a lot of pressure, and the White House may have to back down. But not Dick “Angler” Cheney.

Courtesy: FOX News

CHENEY: It’s important the United States not come across as arrogant. But what’s also important is we not come across as weak or indecisive or apologetic. We did during the Bush administration take some very tough, bold action in terms of trying to deal with and defend the nation, as well as our allies, against that terrorist threat.

ESCOBAR: And he’s still convinced torture works. So why not come up with the special prosecutor—or, better yet, a truth commission—and call the Angler’s bluff? And all this is happening while an even more damning dark-side memo has not even been declassified. This is shaping up as a case of American exceptionalism one cannot believe in. Without accepting responsibility for torture, and illegal preemptive wars as well, and we doubt accountability, there can be no catharsis in America. Obama’s got to know that if his “going forward” is perceived like “look the other way,” this whole thing will come back to haunt his presidency. And if it walks and talks like a whitewash, that’s because it must be a whitewash.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.