Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Shining City on a Hill



"All I want you to do is imagine if you were witnessing this scene in a movie. The interrogators would be Nazis, wouldn’t they? And now they are us."--Andrew Sullivan


If you can read the Senate Committee Study of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program without feeling sick, simply sick--well, you've a damned sight stronger stomach than I have, that's all. And I don't think it's anything to take pride in.

The report has provoked a predictable, and well-earned firestorm from Andrew Sullivan (whose persistence and righteous anger on this issue more than make up for his blind spots, occasional self-righteousness, and seeming inability to take a nap). His live-blog is worth a visit, though your skin will crawl as you read the iniquities perpetrated in our names. And if it doesn't--well, as Aaron Sorkin once wrote, then, God, I don't even want to know you.

From The Times:
he long-delayed report, which took five years to produce and is based on more than six million internal agency documents, is a sweeping indictment of the C.I.A.'s operation and oversight of a program carried out by agency officials and contractors in secret prisons around the world in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It also provides a macabre accounting of some of the grisliest techniques that the C.I.A. used to torture and imprison terrorism suspects.

Detainees were deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were sometimes told that they would be killed while in American custody. With the approval of the C.I.A.'s medical staff, some C.I.A. prisoners were subjected to medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” — a technique that the C.I.A.'s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert “total control over the detainee.” C.I.A. medical staff members described the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, as a “series of near drownings.”

The report also suggests that more prisoners were subjected to waterboarding than the three the C.I.A. has acknowledged in the past. The committee obtained a photograph of a waterboard surrounded by buckets of water at the prison in Afghanistan commonly known as the Salt Pit — a facility where the C.I.A. had claimed that waterboarding was never used. One clandestine officer described the prison as a “dungeon,” and another said that some prisoners there “literally looked like a dog that had been kenneled.”

Many of the most extreme interrogation methods — including waterboarding — were authorized by Justice Department lawyers during the Bush administration. But the report also found evidence that a number of detainees had been subjected to other, unapproved methods while in C.I.A. custody.

The torture of prisoners at times was so extreme that some C.I.A. personnel tried to put a halt to the techniques, but were told by senior agency officials to continue the interrogation sessions.

The Senate report quotes a series of August 2002 cables from a C.I.A. facility in Thailand, where the agency’s first prisoner was held. Within days of the Justice Department’s approval to begin waterboarding the prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, the sessions became so extreme that some C.I.A. officers were “to the point of tears and choking up,” and several said they would elect to be transferred out of the facility if the brutal interrogations continued.

During one waterboarding session, Abu Zubaydah became “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.” The interrogations lasted for weeks, and some C.I.A. officers began sending messages to the agency’s headquarters in Virginia questioning the utility — and the legality — of what they were doing. But such questions were rejected.
Not to mention the breaking of Abu Zubaydah to the point that he would assume the position to be water boarded when his interrogators snapped their fingers, the threatening of one detainee that his mother would be brought in and raped in front of him--and oh, many, many more horrors.

Did I mention that out of 119 detainees, “at least 26 were wrongfully held.” That's over 20%.


All this was perpetrated in our names.

Perpetrated by our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters.

Oh, and all those attacks it prevented? Yeah, not so much. Sorry folks; all a lie; even the CIA can't dispute it. Like the lie that we don't torture. We do.

Perpetrated, it is true, by a Republican administration, and ceased by his Democratic successor--but while Bush and Cheney bear the brunt of the blame (apparently Cheney more than Bush--the report suggest that Bush was misled for some time about the extent of torture), our current president, for whom I voted twice, is not entirely blameless, either. Barack Obama discouraged the release of the report, and tried to delay it; he gave shelter to the guilty. The audacity of hope did not dare to confront this violation of every American ideal. And yet, compromised and tainted though he is in this area, Barack Obama is guilty of basically irresolution, trying to hide the Nation's shame, and retrospective complicity in a crime the enormity of which he did not wish to face.

Perhaps because he feared that we would embrace the torturers, fawning on them, and lick the blood from their gloves:



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