David S. Addington, Cheney's general counsel, set the new legal agenda in a blunt memorandum shortly after the CIA delegation returned to Langley. Geneva's "strict limits on questioning of enemy prisoners," he wrote on Jan. 25, 2002, hobbled efforts "to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists."
No longer was the vice president focused on procedural rights, such as access to lawyers and courts. The subject now was more elemental: How much suffering could U.S. personnel inflict on an enemy to make him talk? Cheney's lawyer feared that future prosecutors, with motives "difficult to predict," might bring criminal charges against interrogators or Bush administration officials.
Geneva rules forbade not only torture but also, in equally categorical terms, the use of "violence," "cruel treatment" or "humiliating and degrading treatment" against a detainee "at any time and in any place whatsoever."
This is a shocking remark, but when you read things like this, the similarity between Cheney and someone like Saddam Hussein is remarkable. Both were absolutely single-minded, paranoid about their power, and believed that nothing was exempt in accomplishing their goals. I don't think Cheney's policies would have had a chance in any environment other than the pathological fear which followed the 9-11 attacks, and this is a perfect example of why we cannot allow fear to set our agenda or our methods because it will always lead to abuses.
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