The Washington Post features an exposé today by Joby Warrick and Peter Finn that further illuminates the darkest recesses of the Bush administration's so-called "enhanced interrogation program." Numerous psychologists, physicians, and other health officials, the Post reports, played a key role in not only drawing up but also implementing the torture of suspected terrorists.
The Hippocratic oath says "First, do no harm." The malignant credo of these medical professionals was that they could torture up to the point of not causing permanent harm. They were not government civil servants but contract employees. They were not remotely under any compulsion to authorize torture. But whether from venality or sadism or misguided notions of protecting national security, or some combination of all three, they have forfeited the right to practice medicine. Under the guise of extracting information from alleged terrorists, they themselves sought to terrorize. They should be identified and disbarred.
As the New York Times underscores today, these measures were not only morally abhorrent, but also utterly ineffective. CIA higher-ups, for example, insisted on torturing al Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah even after he already had volunteered valuable information. The brutal interrogations accomplished nothing. Which points to the real culprit--George Tenet, no doubt trying to please George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, by showing that he could act decisively to protect national security.
Cheney and his henchman David Addington were obsessed with rolling back the reforms that the Church committee, which investigated CIA abuses in the 1970s, had prompted in the intelligence services. Cowardly congressional liberals, they thought, had emasculated America's defenses. Cheney and Addington didn't believe that they were ever any abuses. So he and Bush went them one better.
President Obama, who entered Washington preaching bipartisanship, doesn't want to go prosecute the perpetrators. But the sheer degradation and incompetence of the Bush administration demands some kind of reckoning. Simply releasing the documents about its embrace of torture has further soiled Bush and Cheney's legacy. But whether that is punishment enough is another matter.