How did all this torture and war stuff happen, you ask? Well, some people have been trying to cover those stories for several years now, but the recently unclassified senate report adds valuable detail. But hey, why not try a flowchart?
Click for a larger view, or go here. Here's a larger view of that little collage:
Click for a slightly larger view, or go here. (One of the pictures comes from "The Green Light," a summary of one of the better books on torture out there, Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values by Philippe Sands. Check out the article if you haven't.)
Feel free to quibble with any of the specifics in the chart, or improve it. It's somewhat tongue-in-cheek and has its flaws, beyond the resolution issues. With authoritarians, there's often a chicken versus egg question for their actions, and an ignorance versus evil question for their motives. However, for them, an authoritarian regime is both a means and the ends. To paraphrase Digby, incompetence, corruption, secrecy and dishonesty are features, not bugs of these systems. My main point is that a host of attitudes contribute to the problem, and a little bit of reflection, humility, intelligent analysis, oversight, honest counsel or courage can check it – unless the steamroller is allowed to prevail. Just as bullshitters don't care whether what they're saying is true or not, authoritarians tend not to care about such pesky things as negative consequences, principle or the law. An explicit order to "Torture that man until he falsely confesses to an 9/11-Iraq connection!" might never come, in those exact words – yet that outcome is nonetheless the natural (or perhaps unnatural) result of a series of deliberate decisions, an arrogant attitude and the overall climate created. (That's not to mention the issues of self-awareness and CYA language.) It's not as if the Bush administration lied, hid the evidence, dodged oversight and ignored or punished warnings from their own people out of good faith. They knew what they were doing was radical. (See Angler, a superb book, for much more.) In any case, there will be plenty of time to discuss the specific "whys" as we continue to establish all of the "whats" in greater detail. We need an excellent special prosecutor to investigate the crime scene. ( A truth commission might help as well, but not if it goes the Iran-Contra route of immunizing everyone and undercutting any criminal investigations.) Paul Krugman spells it out well:
Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.
There’s a word for this: it’s evil.
Exactly. Let the full truth be known, and justice be done.
(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)