Cheney believes torturing innocents works

Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney made no apologies on Sunday for the US interrogation programme that he helped devise after the 9/11 attacks and expressed no regrets for any innocents who may have been harmed in the process.
Mr Cheney had said in an interview last week on Fox News that he considers the now-released summary of the Senate report on interrogation of suspected al-Qaeda militants to be “full of crap” and that the programme was “fundamentally justified”.
Critics who hoped the former vice-president would receive more pointed questions in a Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press weren’t disappointed, but Mr Cheney didn’t back down from his defence of his actions. He said Bush administration policies have kept the US safe for 13 years, repeatedly referencing the horrors of the 9/11 attacks to justify his actions.
How does he define torture?
“Torture to me … is an American citizen on his cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York,” he replied.
Did he have a problem with the “involuntary rectal feeding” of some detainees, as detailed in the Senate report?
“What was done here apparently certainly was not one of the techniques that was approved,” he said. “I believe it was done for medical reasons.” (That contention is disputed by the report and medical experts.)
Was he concerned by the report’s findings that up to 25% of detainees were innocents captured as a result of mistaken identity and that one such man, Gul Rahman, froze to death after being doused with water and chained to a wall?
“The problem I have was with all of the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield,” he said. “I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent.”
And in case that wasn’t clear enough, he added:
“I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States.”
Mr Cheney’s remarks were greeted with equal parts outrage and bitter resignation on the part of many liberal commentators.
“An innocent man died,” writes MSNBC’s Steven Benen. “For Cheney, there is no remorse, no reflection, no acknowledgement of an obvious tragedy. Rather, there is an immediate shift to others he wishes he could have imprisoned longer.”
Mr Cheney is fine with the ends justifying the means, he says, “just so long as Cheney is the one dictating both the means and the ends”.
Benen also warns that it’s too easy to write Mr Cheney off as a retired politician who no longer has influence in the Washington corridors of power.
“Most of the contemporary Republican Party not only agrees with Cheney, but GOP policymakers literally welcome Cheney to Capitol Hill to help offer guidance to Republican lawmakers on matters of national security,” he writes.
Mr Cheney’s views shouldn’t be surprising, writes Salon’s Heather Digby Parton, since it’s all part of the “1% doctrine” the vice-president laid out more than a decade ago.
“If even a 1% chance existed that we might suffer an attack,” she says, “we had to do whatever was in our capability, including torture, to stop it.”
According to blogger Andrew Sullivan, Mr Cheney’s answer reveal that his interrogation programme was motivated less by the desire to prevent another attack as it was by rage and revenge.
“It was torture designed to be as brutal to terror suspects as 19 men on 9/11 were to Americans,” he writes. “Tit-for-tat. Our torture in return for their torture; their innocent victims in return for ours. It was a programme that has no place in a civilised society.”
The former vice-president is a “sociopath”, Sullivan says, who “needs to be brought to justice”.
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson, on the other hand, lauds Mr Cheney as “one of the few men publicly pushing back against the Democrats”. His views may be unpopular, he writes for RedState, but his cause is just.
“Because of Dick Cheney, George W Bush and many nameless men and women, the Democrats and their friends in the media get to morally preen because they are alive and might not be had Dick Cheney, George W Bush and these nameless men and women not done what needed doing,” he says.
Others on the right weren’t as enthusiastic as Erickson, however.
“Whatever you think of Cheney’s general approach to torture, the indifference to the innocents caught in the machine seemed callous to me,” tweeted the National Review’s Charles CW Cooke.
In his 1765 Commentaries on the Laws of England, jurist William Blackstone wrote: “It is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
This ratio, commonly called Blackstone’s Formulation, drew from the Old Testament and has been a bedrock principle of Western jurisprudence, having been cited repeatedly by US Supreme Court justices.
Mr Cheney may or may not believe this formulation applies to US citizens, but when it comes to foreign detainees, it appears he takes a decidedly different view.

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