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Joe Conason has strung together the mounting evidence that the Bush Administration employed torture techniques to help justify their invasion and occupation of Iraq better than anyone else I've seen.  For the raw facts, read this Zachary Roth piece as a primer.  For the more literary version that you should send around to everybody you know, Conason's your man.  Here's an excerpt:

The single most pertinent question that Dick Cheney is never asked -- at least not by the admiring interviewers he has encountered so far -- is whether he, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush used torture to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq. As he tours television studios, radio stations and conservative think tanks, the former vice-president hopes to persuade America that only waterboarding kept us safe for seven years.

Yet evidence is mounting that under Cheney’s direction, "enhanced interrogation" was not used exclusively to prevent imminent acts of terror or collect actionable intelligence -- the aims that he constantly emphasizes -- but to invent evidence that would link al-Qaida with Saddam Hussein and connect the late Iraqi dictator to the 9/11 attacks.

Read the whole thing.  It's short, and it incorporates all the evidence we have up until today about how Cheney and the Administration used torture to lie us into war.  You can take a look at Charles Duelfer's sit-down with Rachel Maddow last night as well.  Duelfer claims that Cheney asked him to waterboard a senior Iraqi intelligence official to get him to confirm an Iraq/Al Qaeda link.  While this was after the invasion itself, this was also the time when the WMDs could not be found and the White House was casting around for some retrospective justification for the war.

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Meanwhile, we learned today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was asked about Iraq/Al Qaeda links after being captured in March 2003.

Some of the first questions asked of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed upon his capture and during the time during which he was waterboarded were about possible connections between al Qaeda and Iraq, according to a review of several reports on U.S. intelligence operations.

The mastermind of the September 11 attacks was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and according to Office of Legal Counsel memos released last month, was waterboarded 183 times that same month.

The substance of the intelligence that was being sought from him has been an object of some speculation, with several defenders of the interrogation practice arguing that the goal was to prevent an impending attack on America. But a line buried on page 353 of the July 2004 Select Committee on Intelligence report on pre-Iraq war intelligence strongly suggests that the interrogation was just as centered on a possible Iraq-al-Qaeda link as terrorist activity.

"CTC [Counter Terrorist Center] noted that the questions regarding al-Qaida's ties to the Iraqi regime were among the first presented to senior al-Qaida operational planner Khalid Shaikh Muhammad following his capture."

This is from primary sources, directly out of the 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee report signed off on by the REPUBLICAN majority.  

Up until this point, we have lacked the political will to really investigate the Bush-Cheney torture regime.  These revelations about the nexus of torture and Iraq changes that dynamic tremendously.  The political will must now be renewed, from the bottom up.  And at this point, without moral clarity, particularly in light of this torture/Iraq link, we lose all of our moral authority well into the future.

As has been the case for years, Democratic leaders, operating within the Washington bubble, misconstrue the concerns of the netroots and often privately dismiss them as the rantings of immature outsiders and political neophytes.

But as always, the progressive community, a far more efficient thinking machine than a handful of strategists and advisers, is looking ahead and raising a unified alarm. The message is this: anything less than absolute moral clarity from Democrats, who now control the levers of power, will enshrine Bush's abuses and undermine the rule of law for generations to come.

Setting aside all the campaign slogans about hope and change, what Obama really signifies is a razor sharp break from Bush, Cheney, Yoo, Rice, Rumsfeld, Addington, Libby, Bybee et al. After eight years of damage to the fabric of our Constitution and our nation, the entire point of a new face, a smart, youthful, inspiring Democratic president is to completely and totally reject the Bush years, to reject the lawless behavior, the Orwellian rationales, the blatant disregard of the Constitution.

Neglecting to do so, and leaving any doubt about where Democrats stand on these issues, is profoundly detrimental to the country.

We tortured to justify the war in Iraq.  If we let that go, how much more torture?  How many more wars?

Originally posted to dday on Fri May 15, 2009 at 10:15 AM PDT.

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