Don't listen to me on torture, listen to this Republican military dude


I got a few snarky emails or blog comments yesterday from Michael Smerconish listeners (I thought conservatives had stopped listening to him....). My stumbling voice-for-print is certainly a fair enough target, but a couple of people were also outraged when I said that the primary goal of the torture program as it unfolded became less to get real actionable intelligence and more to get info that was desired by Dick Cheney that would falsely link al-Qaeda and thus 9/11 to Saddan Hussein and Iraq, justifying the war they went ahead and fought anyway.

OK, maybe I'm not a primary source on this, but how about Lawrence Wilkerson, the former Army colonel and Colin Powell aide (and Republican). Here's what he wrote today:

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)

And so the big story today is...Nancy Pelosi? Look, I'm not at all a Pelosi fan, and I do think it's unconscionable that she didn't use her powers to do more to stop Bush-era tortures, and that the day will come for dealing with that, but I also think it's about the 41st paragraph of the story. The lede (to use some journalism-ese) is that the vice president of the United States sought torture to extract false confessions to help start a war in which more than 4,000 Americans and at least 100,000 Iraqis (and probably a lot more) died. Karl Rove claims that Nancy Pelosi was an accomplice to this -- I don't think that's exactly right but if she had been an accomplice she would have been an accomplice to what increasingly looks like a war crime. Good to know Karl's on board.