• Thinking About Torture Ahead of the Senate Report

    December 9, 2014

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    Posted in: Post-Constitution America

    torture



    The highly-redacted Senate Intelligence Committee report on post-9/11 torture is being released as you read this. It will likely contain few details on what actually happened by America’s hand.

    But details or not, at the most fundamental level the report does not matter. America will sidestep the most important lessons that could have emerged: we have left the door open to torture, and torture will ultimately harm the nation more profoundly than any terrorist could.

    Information already in circulation makes clear the report will reveal America’s regime was more horrific than what we already know and that torture did not generate any of the life-saving intelligence it was designed and tolerated to do.

    There will be articles and talk shows pulling out every grotesque detail, played as horror porn, a real-life Saw. There will be think pieces reflecting on the terribleness of war, likely quoting some scraps of ancient text (save us from more Wikipedian Herodotus and Thucydides.) A main theme will be that while wrong and repugnant, one must view torture through the lens of those post-9/11 days when our very America was at grave risk. Torture is always unpleasant but sometimes necessary, people will say.


    President Obama already staked out this position on behalf of the nation way back on August 1, saying “I understand why [torture] happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.”

    The reality is, and was, different. The torture programs continued for years after 9/11, with most officially concluding (we are lead to believe) only after Obama took office in January 2009. Despite the fear-mongering, standard intelligence tools (including, we now know, blanket NSA surveillance) painted a clearer and clearer picture that there were no more imminent attacks coming. As for the “tough job” the “folks” responsible for the torture had, it is unclear that that job was any tougher than in other times of challenge for America– during the Civil War when the nation was truly at risk, after Pearl Harbor, during tense moments of the Cold War– when fear did not congeal into torture.

    No, no the idea that torture, as well as the other post-9/11 violations of acceptable human behavior such as renditions, indefinite detention without trial and the dilution of civil rights, held by American citizens for over two hundred years, can in any way be justified by their circumstances is simply wrong.

    The purposeful harming of prisoners has never in human history been considered acceptable or justified, except by the torturers themselves perhaps. Does the U.S. wish to stand in history among the Inquisition, Genghis Khan and the Stasi, all of whom felt torture was justified? Torture has otherwise been broadly held evil when done by frightened soldiers in the heat of battle, and it has been held evil when sanctioned by governments. It has been outlawed by international conventions and agreements.

    No U.S. president would find it acceptable if done to fellow citizens. Obama should be ashamed of himself for suggesting anything different about America’s own actions. He displays a lack of courage to confront his own national security apparatus by in any way leaving open the door that what was done was something he could “understand.” The horror was excusable once, and thus can be again. Pandora’s box has been left open.


    The second expected theme of the Senate report, that torture failed to produce results, bares similar shame.

    Leaving aside how unlikely a true 24 “ticking time bomb” scenario really is (no torture was needed after the Boston Marathon bombing when there might actually have been a ticking bomb), it does not matter whether torture produced “results.” If somehow one could cite an example of some useful intelligence, would that justify all that was done? Would it at that point be simply a math problem — if torture saved two lives it was still bad, but if it saved 54, or a 106, or 3,013, then it was justified and thus needed to be kept in America’s global toolbox for the “next time?”

    What matters more is that the long-term result of choosing expediency over morality has always resulted in great harm to a nation. Now, look to Thucydides, the ancient historian — the abandonment by Athens those centuries ago of its core principles in the destruction of innocents lead to the destruction of Athenian democracy. The lessons of history matter, especially for the first democracy founded since Athens.

    America, as national policy, tortured human beings. It did so out of fear, out of revenge, because it wanted to lash out and it could. Unless the president will step back from complicity on behalf of our nation and admit torture was simply wrong, and risked greater long-term harm to America than a terrorist could inflict, well ahead of the Senate report’s release we already know it doesn’t matter.



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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      “Torture will ultimately harm the nation more profoundly than any terrorist could.”

      Actually, our collective stupidity is the gravest threat. Torture on directive from Supreme Dickhead Cheney did produce “useful” intelligence that the Dickhead wanted. It produced the lies about nukes and WMDs that Dickhead and the rest of the neo-conartists used to fool TDCOTP to support an illegal war. H.L. Mencken would assert torture wasn’t necessary to fool US, TDCOTP.

      12/9/14 3:21 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      12/9/14 3:57 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      3

      Fool me twice, sham on US –

      NYT: Mr. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and a number of former C.I.A. officials have said more recently that the program was essential for ultimately finding Osama bin Laden, who was killed by members of the Navy SEALs in May 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

      The Intelligence Committee’s report tries to refute each of these claims, using the C.I.A.’s internal records to present 20 case studies that bolster its conclusion that the most extreme interrogation methods played no role in disrupting terrorism plots, capturing terrorist leaders — even finding Bin Laden.

      The report said that senior officials — including the former C.I.A. directors George J. Tenet, Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden — repeatedly inflated the value of the program in secret briefings both at the White House and on Capitol Hill, and in public speeches.”

      Gee, what’s the world coming to when you can’t trust these “patriots” to act honestly ?

      12/9/14 4:44 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      4

      If any protestors aren’t doing anything this week, I suggest you go over to that White Elephant at Langley and demonstrate against the people who are killing US.

      12/9/14 5:20 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      5

      12/9/14 5:32 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      6

      “NYT: Mr. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and a number of former C.I.A. officials have said more recently that the program was essential for ultimately finding Osama bin Laden, who was killed by members of the Navy SEALs in May 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan.”

      It would take Cheney and company 10 years from September 2001 to find Bin Laden. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Central Asia in 2001, every school kid in the village new where Bin Laden was holed up — Pakistan. This is not kidding either

      Maybe Cheney and friends had a good reason for delaying capturing Bin Laden?? 10 years is kinda long as it is. Reminds me of a recent article where a CIA officials said the agency needed more time to gather intel on Syria, as if it were something new

      CO2 Cheney alert, too much smoke blowing

      12/9/14 5:46 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      7

      Of course, let’s omit the Cheney administration was out of office in 2011 …

      12/9/14 5:47 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      8

      We want our money back or cut the CIA budget to get it back:

      CIA contractors who helped develop and operate the “enhanced interrogation techniques” (which have been deemed WORTHLESS) that the agency used on terror suspects, including waterboarding, were paid more than $80 million, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s interrogation program released Tuesday.

      The contract was for more than $180 million, but the contractors had only received $81 million when their contract was terminated in 2009.

      Although the committee did not identify the contractors, NBC News has previously identified them as Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, a Spokane, Washington company run by two psychologists, Dr. John “Bruce” Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, who had both previously worked with the U.S. Air Force.

      The report states that when they were hired the two did not have “specialized knowledge of al Qaeda, a background in counterterrorism or any relevant cultural or linguistic experience.”

      12/9/14 5:47 PM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...

      9

      To the Obamanable DESPOTUS who has murderously assassinated US citizens for exercising their freedom of speech and (their) children, for no reason At ALL; torture is a mere trifle, albeit the epitome of depravity for the rest of US! To Hague with him and his Poppy Bushist CABAL!!

      12/9/14 5:47 PM | Comment Link

    • jim hruska said...

      10

      WMW,
      What’s the point of this report?
      Why wasn’t congress doing and saying this while it was happening?The answer is because we have become a security state.
      Now where is accountability? A kid gets shot in Mo. and we go crazy, but you won’t see any grand juries convening for the killings in the black sites.
      Why do we even accept such terminology as BLACK SITES?
      Every body who had any thing to do with this torture is fat, dumb and happy living large.
      Who says that democracies are accountable?
      jim hruska aka rangeragainstwar

      12/9/14 8:18 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      11

      The CIA and FBI are concerned about security issues as a result of the release of the torture report. Talk about blowback:

      Interrogators Threatened Families

      CIA officers threatened detainees with harm to their families. Those threats included doing harm to the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee and to “cut” a detainee’s mother’s throat.

      12/9/14 10:41 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      12

      12/9/14 10:44 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      13

      Is the USA a lawless society?

      A U.N. human rights expert said a report that the U.S. Senate released on Tuesday revealed a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration” and called for prosecution of U.S. officials who ordered crimes, including torture, against detainees.

      Ben Emmerson, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said senior Bush administration officials who planned and authorized crimes must be prosecuted, along with as CIA and other U.S. government officials who committed torture such as waterboarding.

      “As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Emmerson said in a statement issued in Geneva. “The U.S. Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.”

      Red, white and Blue, what are our TRUE colors?

      12/9/14 10:49 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      14

      I’ve held back for a day..due to continuous projectile vomiting. Now I’m ready.

      quote”Maybe Cheney and friends had a good reason for delaying capturing Bin Laden??”unquote

      Indeed. The magic question. Cheney didn’t want him captured. He wanted him killed before he could tell the world what we’ve always known. 9/11. WAS. PLANNED. BY. YOU KNOW WHO. After 13 years, it doesn’t take an Einstein to add 2+2. In reality, this whole WOT is a sham. A rotton sham. And so is the CIA. I’ve learned enough over 30 years to see the truth now. The CIA has been torturing people since it’s inception. PERIOD. I’ve posted this before, but I’m going to post this again. Read this and you’ll finally understand EXACTLY what the CIA really is.

      http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=13678

      That background will tell you WHY JFK was killed. And why Landsdale was instrumental. And why Jim Garrison became convinced the CIA/DOD IS the government. And WHY we are where we are today. And who should know better than Col. Fletcher Prouty. After all..it was him who convinced Garrison. He knew it all….

      http://www.prouty.org/garrison.html

      The release of the so called Torture Report summary, while giving the world a few facts of the insideous nature of the CIA, does nothing to show it’s true purpose or scope of power on this planet. It’s up to you to find the truth. But here is a clue…ASSASSINATION IS BIG BUSINESS. However, to illustrate the depths to which the real PTB will go to keep the truth from coming out, one can do no better than to understand the story of Prouty’s book..The Secret Team and what the CIA did to round up every single copy. Unfortunately..they can’t keep it off the net.

      http://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/ST/

      “The history of the great events of this world are scarcely more than the
      history of crime” –Voltaire

      Now I understand

      I’ll leave it at that.

      12/10/14 10:46 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      15

      ps..
      quote”“As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Emmerson said in a statement issued in Geneva. “The U.S. Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.”unquote

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…HOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO..HEHEHEHEHEHEHE!

      When pigs fly. And therin lies the entire truth. Ain’t gonna happen ever. Two words says why.

      LEGAL IMPERIALISM.

      12/10/14 10:55 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      16

      ps..about that picture Peter. Check out the very first comment on Greenwald live coverage of the release at the Intercept yesterday. It’s me. Chronicle. Click on the link. 🙂

      https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/12/09/live-coverage-release-senate-torture-report/#respond

      12/10/14 11:19 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      17

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…HOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO..HEHEHEHEHEHEHE!

      That’s the crowd at Langley laughing their asses off while reading the torture report. They know nothing is going to happen to ANYONE…other than Kiriakou because he’s such a threat to national….oh forget about it.

      12/10/14 12:11 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      18

      quote”other than Kiriakou because he’s such a threat to national….oh forget about it.”unquote

      Indeed. The entire MSM hasn’t even mentioned this.

      And we know why.

      12/10/14 2:00 PM | Comment Link

    • On The BBC Defending Not Torturing People | Ghosts of Tom Joad - Peter Van Buren said...

      19

      […] does indeed work, if your goal is simply to punish, humiliate or extract false confessions. One example of torture’s very successful use in American […]

      12/15/14 1:27 PM | Comment Link

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