It’s Now Obvious Why Bush And Cheney Didn’t Want Us To See Torture Report: They Look Like Monsters

Many have noted that part of George W. Bush’s success in spite of a glaring lack of intelligence or eloquence was his folksy charm. He’s the president voters wanted to have a beer with. But with the release of the Senate’s new and devastating report on torture methods used by the CIA after September 11, 2001, we get a stunning reminder of why you don’t elect your drinking buddies to be the leader of the free world.

And then there is Dick Cheney.

Republicans like to criticize President Obama for his lack of leadership, but in comparison to Bush, Obama looks like Napoleon. No one on Earth could say that Vice President Joe Biden is the one really calling the shots in the White House, Obama has consistently exerted his will in the Oval Office. Bush, on the other hand, was led around on a leash by Cheney and the CIA.

According to the newly released report, Bush had almost no idea what the CIA or Cheney were up to until it had already happened. Frequently, decisions that should have been run by the president stopped at Cheney, leaving Bush to later play catch up with his own policies.

Consider this finding by Bloomberg (emphasis added):

President George W. Bush was never briefed by the Central Intelligence Agency on the details of harsh interrogation techniques and secret detention of terror suspects for the first four years of the controversial program, and when he did find out the details, he was “uncomfortable” with some of the practices, according to the long-awaited report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were briefed on the interrogation techniques sometime in 2003, the committee report states. Other top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, also eventually received briefings about the details of the program, but not the president himself.

How must it have felt to be sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office and suddenly realize that literally every one of your advisers knew more than you and said nothing? How small must Bush have felt?

But before we start to feel sorry for poor hoodwinked President Bush and let him off the hook for the despicable acts that the United States committed under his leadership, we need to look at his response when he finally found out about the “uncomfortable” acts of torture happening: Rather than put an end to it, Bush and his cronies moved to cover it up. They knew the American people would villainize them for it so they swept it under the rug – leaving countless victims to continue to suffer in silence.

The New York Times:

The report is said to assert that the C.I.A. misled Mr. Bush and his White House about the nature, extent and results of brutal techniques like waterboarding, and some of his former administration officials privately suggested seizing on that to distance themselves from the controversial program, according to people involved in the discussion. But Mr. Bush and his closest advisers decided that “we’re going to want to stand behind these guys,” as one former official put it.

Since Bush’s tenure most of “these guys” have quietly conceded that many of the techniques used in interrogating terror suspects was wrong, and probably didn’t even yield anything productive. The one person who seems to have not gotten the morality memo is Dick Cheney. The former vice president has defended the actions with such zeal that one suspects he may secretly enjoy the idea of people being put in pain. His quotes from the last few years certainly make it seem like he loses no sleep over his involvement.

In 2008 on CBS:

Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, said “it’s a good thing” that top al Qaeda figures underwent the harsh interrogation tactic in 2002 and 2003, claiming they were forced to give up information that helped protect the country and saved “thousands” of American lives.

“It’s a good thing we had them in custody, and it’s a good thing we found out what they knew,” said Cheney, speaking Thursday to a meeting of conservative Republicans in Washington.

Then in 2014:

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” Cheney told the gathering, according to “The Eagle,” the school newspaper. “The results speak for themselves.”

And yet here’s the thing: The results don’t speak for themselves. In fact, nobody outside of Fox News now believes that torture has done anything other than cause suffering and lower America’s dignity. The new report puts that in devastating relief when it concludes that waterboarding, the torture technique beloved by Cheney and said to have helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden, did not “produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden.” Cheney must have known that. He just kept lying and hoped a report like this never came out.

To defend torture while knowing that it doesn’t work isn’t just political gamesmanship, it’s a level of sadism that is hard to fathom. Nobody is asking Cheney to keep talking about torture, he just wants to.

Some of the torture techniques that Cheney loved and Bush covered up have been documented in the Senate report and much of it is almost too graphic, dehumanizing and barbaric to mention (if you’re up to it, you can find a copy of the report here), but let’s consider one example. While reading this, we must keep in mind that this was done while the people ordering it knew that it probably didn’t work.

At least five detainees were subjected to “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration,” without any documented medical need. “While IV infusion is safe and effective,” one officer wrote, rectal hydration could be used as a form of behavior control. [source]

It’s become common to speak about Bush as a kind of lovable buffoon. We joke about how dumb he was and roll our eyes at the idea that he got elected twice. This is a mistake. Bush, and especially the people he put in charge of the country, committed unforgivable crimes. To let him off the hook with a sigh and a shrug is to absolve him of the kind of barbaric wrongdoing that he knowingly committed. If Bush was elected because he’s a great guy to have a beer with, then he’s also escaped any kind of consequences for his actions for the exact same reason. That’s a shame.