Monday, December 15, 2014

Torture Reportage

Another of my semi-random columns showed up in the local paper today.

Said a chief prosecutor in the Nuremburg trials: “As an International Military Tribunal, it … seeks guidance not only from international law but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence which are assumptions of civilization and which long have found embodiment in the codes of all nations… 
Comes now the Senate report on the torture that was done in our name. After reading it (here’s an interactive “Cliffsnotes” version:, there can remain no doubt that George Bush lied when he told the world “The US doesn’t torture.” You can think it’s horrible, or you can thump your chest with pride that we’re as hardcore as anyone; but you can’t deny the lie. You might have decided what we did in the aftermath of 9/11 -- out of fear, or panic, or the best of intentions, or, as George Bush claimed, on instructions from God -- was justified and righteous. You might reject the conclusion that “we” forsook the most basic of American values, tossed away that which once separated us from the worst of humanity; you might, as have many, even before Dianne Feinstein was done reading the report into the record, find nothing wrong with what we did, only with those revealing it. 
You might believe, like me, (decidedly in the minority, that our torture program diminished our greatness, did us only harm, debased our standing in the world, and removed forever our once-justified claims to the moral high ground; or, like Mr. Bush, you might want to change the subject, praising the brave men and women of the CIA, suggesting the report is intended only as denigration of those people, as opposed to a way toward illumination of the sort of state in which we’ve come to live, good and bad, potential and actual; a means of facing fundamental questions, given ephemeral mention after the attacks of 9/11, of the balance between freedom and security, of government as protector or deceiver. 
Wherever you stand on the morality or necessity of torture, one thing ought finally to be unassailably clear: Bushcheney’s program didn’t work. Period. Which isn’t surprising. Torture never has been a vehicle for obtaining the truth: since the racks of the Inquisition and the drownings in Salem, the waterboarding by the Khmer Rouge and the KGB, torture’s timeless gift to the world has always been the coercion of false confessions. Ask John McCain, whose outrage at our program is pure, and nearly singular on his side of the aisle. In fact, in the report we learn that one captive hauled to a “black” site in (redacted), after days of brutal torture, gave what was demanded of him: claims of Saddam’s WMD stockpile and connection to al Qaeda. The ones used to justify the war. The ones enumerated by Colin Powell at the UN. The ones later recanted by the man, admitting he said what he needed to say, lied to make the torture stop. 
To the surprise of exactly zero people, Fox “news” and the rest of right wing media are united in their outrage. Not at the torture. At the fact it was revealed. Not about the impact and implications of the actions; at the airing of them. The Cheney approach, father and daughter. 
Remember the 1970s Congressional investigation of CIA excesses, headed by Senator Church of Utah? The coordinated attacks that came his way, orchestrated in part by a couple of President Ford’s men, names of Cheney and Rumsfeld? Shall this be the ultimate fate of the current report, vilifying those who provided it, ignoring the substance? Or might we yet have a clear-headed, non-Foxolimbagian disputation about whether open society and democracy, ruled by law, have an inherent protective power of their own, worth saving, in the longest run transcending even military might; or are they now merely quaint and obsolete indulgences of a naïve past? 
The report makes a point of not directing eyes where they belong: not on those who tortured, but those who authorized and then lied about it. By treaty (signed by Ronald Reagan) and definitions at the time, these were war crimes requiring punishment. Do we address it, or ought we just define it away and move on?
[Image source]


Pieter B said...

Odd, isn't it, that the very people who claim to revere Ronald Reagan seem to have completely forgotten his total commitment to the passage and US ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture?

"The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

"The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”

Sid Schwab said...

As has been said by others, if Saint Ronnie were alive today he'd be kicked out of the Republican Party on his ass.

Smoothtooperate said...

They sent an entire generation to their deaths. They took their homes and livelihoods. Education rose a few hundred percent more expensive and no real loans available unless you want to take out the next worst loan from a payday loan, a school/education loan. You can never file bankruptcy on the education loans either. They left these kids and their kids uneducated and w/o proper medical care. Especially mental health. 10+ years of war and the VA never even STARTED to expand mental health infrastructure and staffed with Drs. and clinicians etc. If we did that to amputees it would get fixed because you can see those wounds. Yet someone who's begging for mental health treatment are asked to PROVE it to a bean counter. Then PROVE it to those who will spit on him in the civilian world as lazy and worthless, making excuses deadbeat. A mentally ill person then just wants to be left alone and commit suicide or live under a bridge to protect themselves from the abuse dished out by cruel heartless "people" who do not see them as humans and warriors and heroes. They see them as a waste, a burden on society and that's pretty sick in the head if you ask me. It's THOSE people who should have to prove they are not mentally ill.

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