Like an evil, blood-sucking vampire that refuses to die, former Vice President Dick Cheney rose from his lair to appear on cable TV today.
He was on Fox Business to bolster Gina Haspel’s shaky bid to head the CIA, and urge the revival of the controversial enhanced interrogation program that features the illegal, inhumane torture of opponents held in captivity.
“If it were my call,” Cheney told Maria Bartiromo, “I would not discontinue those programs. I’d have them active and ready to go, and I’d go back and study them and learn.”
While the news may not have reached the dark place where Cheney has been hiding since the discredited Bush administration left office, the use of “enhanced interrogation” has been extensively studied and found to violate the Geneva Convention.
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Despite Cheney’s denials, the use of torture by the CIA in Iraq, Guantanamo and elsewhere from 2002 through 2008 was thoroughly and repeatedly discredited after the former Defense Secretary promoted it relentlessly while Veep in the George W. Bush administration.
Cheney has continued to defend the use of water-boarding, isolation, physical and mental torture, and “rectal rehydration,” which involves forcing fluid into the anal cavity of suspected terrorists.
Cheney has said, “rectal rehydration” was only done for “medical reasons,” to discourage hunger strikes and to gain “total control” over a detainee.
“Several physicians,” reports Fact Check.org, “have rejected the medical necessity of the practice.”
Even in his comments today, Cheney denies that the torture techniques he and Bush justified after the 9/11 attack were found illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court and repudiated by a 2012 U.S. Senate committee in a 6,700-page report issued after talking to witnesses and considering thousands of pages of documentation.
“CIA personnel,” the Senate report declared, “aided by two outside contractors, decided to initiate a program of indefinite secret detention and the use of brutal interrogation techniques in violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.
President Obama, by executive order, banned the use of the torture techniques for interrogation in 2009.
His wisdom was reflected in the final Senate report after which the Senate approved an amendment to a defense bill by a margin of 78 to 21 to ban the brutal interrogation techniques Cheney is endorsing forever.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said after the bipartisan vote, “We must continue to insist that the methods we employ in this fight for peace and freedom must always, always, be as right and honorable as the goals and ideals we fight for. Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”
The Senate report put it into perspective:
“Prior to the attacks of September 2001,” the Senate report also stated, “the CIA itself determined from its own experience with coercive interrogations, that such techniques ‘do not produce intelligence,’ ‘will probably result in false answers,’ and had ‘historically proven to be ineffective. Yet these conclusions were ignored.”
In other words not only were the excessive torture methods unAmerican, unethical, cruel and illegal by U.S. and international law, they were not effective – which Cheney to this day also denies.
Yet there was Cheney again today denying that “enhanced interrogation” is a form of torture.
“I think the techniques we used were not torture,” said Cheney. “A lot of people try to call it that, but it wasn’t deemed torture at the time.”
Cheney is referring to a legal opinion provided by a Bush-Cheney legal appointee in 2002 that said it was legal to use the torture techniques and also claimed that the Geneva Convention rules did not apply at Guantanamo, which the Supreme Court later said was untrue and incorrect.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, who led the committee that did the extensive report for the Senate, called it torture “under any common meaning of the term.”
In her testimony to the Senate committee considering her nomination, Haspel – who as a CIA operative during the Iraq war oversaw some of the most brutal torture of helpless prisoners – promised not to bring back the “enhanced interrogation” techniques again.
However when asked if Trump, who has said he believes “torture works” ordered her to do so, she hedged and said she did not think the president would ask her to do that. Haspel would not say she would disobey Trump or that the torture methods she employees at a secret location in Thailand were “immoral.”
In a post today on her MSNBC site, Rachel Maddow raised the alarm that the return of Cheney coincides with the rise in the White House of the neo-cons who promoted the false narrative that led to the disastrous Iraq war.
Although Trump during the election and since has said the architects of the Iraq war were idiots – and that the Bush/Cheney administration’s war was a disaster – Maddow pointed out, there are many ominous signs Trump is lining up with them again, with the unilateral pullout of the Iran nuclear deal being the latest alarming evidence.
“Trump now seems to have aligned himself with those he thinks were wrong,” writes Maddow. “He agrees with Netanyahu and Bolton on Iran, and he agrees with Cheney on torture.”
“There is no reason to believe the sequel to this story,” adds Maddow, “will be any better than the original.”
Seeing Cheney back in the light is indeed a very bad sign for America.