It would have been bad enough to torture people actually suspected of wrongdoing, but the Bush administration went well beyond that. Many people subjected to hideous treatment were picked up on the flimsiest of “evidence.” People were offered bounties to turn others in; naturally, some saw that as a chance to settle old scores having nothing to do with terrorism. Absence of evidence (as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might say) was not considered evidence of absence. In at least one case, a man was tortured — by the U.S. government’s helper in Egypt, Omar Suleiman — to get the prisoner to say that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda agents. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney badly wanted to justify their preexisting wish to effect regime change in Iraq by tying Saddam to 9/11. But there was never any evidence of Iraqi complicity.
That reminds us that torture was not the only crime committed by the Bush administration. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were also (and still are) outrages because, among other reasons, they were based on lies. Bush officials, such as Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, now acknowledge “misstatements,” but that can hardly be taken seriously. We know that back then grave doubts were expressed over the quality of the so-called intelligence about Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. Rumsfeld’s excuses are pathetic. When he beat the drums for war, he said he knew where Saddam’s WMDs were. Now he says he meant he knew the location of “suspected sites.” Did he step out of Orwell’s 1984?