Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Our Shame

The first day of hearings on torture showed three big things:

(1) Dramatic testimony by one of Zubaydah's interrogators, who revealed that when they first began to interrogate him using responsible techniques, he gave important information within an hour. Later, the CIA team showed up with authorization from Washington to torture. When they began applying these tactics, Zubaydah clammed up. When they went back to legal and professional methods, they got more information. They went back to torture, he clammed up again.

If torture causes people to clam up, the "ticking bomb scenario" argues against torture. Even if the Hollywood-inspired fantasy were to materialize in the real world, applying techniques that cause prisoners to shut down (or waiting for sleep deprivation to take effect) waste time.
Torture apologists cannot honestly use this gambit anymore. It is done. The argument simply needs to be laughed at, rejected with a reminder that it has been debunked.

Claims by our government, or former officials of our government, that torture was effective are wrong.

Al Qaeda, it is revealed by professionals, have a strong component in their ideology of thwarting their enemy by any means necessary. If they can't stand any more torture, they can lie. They can waste time. They can babble incoherently. They can waste time. They win. In fact, as an instructor from our own Navy's SERE school (that's the place where they teach Americans how to withstand 'enhanced interrogation') has said in press interviews, we may have accomplished the unspeakable: helping to TRAIN militants to withstand questioning.

Sweet Jesus. Think about that.

(2) There was dissent within the Bush Administation and it was systematically smothered. Torture was criticized for being morally wrong, against our laws, ineffective in averting terrorist attacks, and that the legitimacy of our government was being compromised in order to forge bad legal cover for torture -- it was criticized in person and in memos, by Bush Administration aides, attorneys, etc. These concerns were simply dismissed. Not debated, but squelched. A former advisor to Condeleezza Rice, Philip Zelikow, testified to this effect today in rather gripping detail.
(3) That legal professionals involved in fabricating the legal fig leafs for us to commit war crimes can likely be cited for malfeasance.

And I say "us" because it was us. It was our government, our elected leaders and their agents here and abroad, doing this in our name. I say "us" because there is surprisingly little public outrage about what is being revealed, and plenty of Americans willing to side with the apologists for torture and repeat their Orwellian feints.

It is a long American nightmare, our shame as countrymen. The positive side is this: it is not too late for us to account for what happened, and deal with those who did it. It is our responsibility. Once and for all, it must transcend politics and rouse us to do what human decency and a love for democracy scream out that we must do: illuminate war crimes and let the guilty accept consequences that are humane and just.

As far as this citizen is concerned, the outcome is going to define us. Period.


Jane R said...


quid said...

We cannot just stand idly back. No matter what the consequences.