Torturers “R” Us

December 2014

The heavily redacted CIA Torture Report, finally released this month by the Senate, has given rise to a number of thoughtful articles (although you would never know this if you get your information from Fox News or the New York Times). Here are just a few:

Mother Jones summarizes the report and details the worst abuses made public by the report . You can bet there is a lot more that has not been made public.

Here's an article by Middle East expert Juan Cole detailing why Thomas Jefferson and our Founding Fathers held torture in such contempt and why torture is prohibited by the Constitution of the United States of America. In the 18th Century torture was pervasive in pre-enlightenment Europe.

Lisa Hajjar describes the CIA torture regime as experiments in how to totally destroy and control a human being. Experimentation on unwilling human subjects, including prisoners accused of terrorism, stands contrary to all medical and scientific ethics.

Sam Husseini describes how torture was deliberately used to produce the false intelligence which led up to the War Against Iraq which has destroyed millions of lives and continues today. If you can't produce the intelligence you want legitimately, torture someone into falsely confessing. Under torture, people will break and say anything to stop the torture.

Glenn Greenwald describes how totally missing from the National “debate” on torture are the voices of the tortured. Greenwald writes:

“Nobody could listen to Maher Arar speak and feel anything but disgust and outrage toward the U.S. Government not just the Bush administration which kidnapped him and sent him to be tortured, but the Obama administration which protected them and blocked him from receiving justice, and the American media that turned a blind eye toward it, and the majority of the American public that supports this.”
Meanwhile former Torturer-in-Chief Dick Cheney proudly brags, “I'd do it again.”, while Andrea Tantaros raves on Fox News: “The United States of America is AWESOME. We are AWESOME. But we've had this discussion. We've closed the book on it and we stopped doing it.” (4:13-4:21) Let's note that it is highly unlikely that Dick Cheney or anyone else involved with torture will go to jail (except John Kiriakou who is serving 30 months in federal prison for blowing the whistle on the torturers at the CIA).

Robert Koehler discusses reviving Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 1995 Senate bill to abolish the CIA, which would be an excellent idea. However, our infatuation with torture goes far deeper than the CIA.

Torture is commonly practiced in prisons throughout the United States. Here's a few examples: At Pelican Point, California and elsewhere, prisoners are often held in solitary confinement for periods of 20 years or more. At Dade Correctional Institution, Darren Rainey was murdered by being subjected to a 180 degree shower while guards mocked him. In Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio prisoners have been subjected to lengthy executions with experimental drugs. In Arizona, Joseph Wood was subjected to a 2 hour long execution during which he gasped for breath 600 times.

And finally, a Washington Post poll shows that well over half of us approve of the use of torture and only 20 percent believe that torture is NEVER justified, which is why this article is titled: TORTURERS “R” US.

Some argue that we must torture because torture makes us safer. Clearly, it does not. It makes us less safe. When you torture a person, you increase the likelihood that that person's parent, sibling or child will exact revenge on you. And once you agree to torture, you can no longer claim that you are innocent.

Further, those who torture in our name are known liars. Those who tortured ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi into making a false confession that al-Qaida was supplying Saddam Hussein with chemical/biological weapons have the blood of millions of Iraqis and thousands of US troops on their hands; as does Colin Powell, whose speech before the UN based on this false intelligence was pivotal in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that while there is no evidence that any of the torture described in the CIA torture report produced a shred of useable information that might keep anyone safe, torture can produce such information. Me, I would rather take my chances without such information, than have the screams of torture victims echoing in my ears. If I were to condone such torture, what difference would there be between me and the Inquisition or the Nazis?
Some further reading:
Stanford Prison Experiment: A classic 1971 experiment by Philip Zimbardo in which some volunteers were designated guards and given complete control over other volunteers who were designated prisoners. This two week experiment had to be aborted after six days because the guards had become so sadistic and the prisoners so depressed.

The Act of Killing: A movie by Joshua Oppenheimer in which Indonesian death squad leader Anwar Congo reenacts scenes of murder and torture for the camera. We see Anwar Congo, who at the onset is proud of his role as death squad leader, come face to face with the reality of what he has done and the lives he has ruined. This movie was part of the Missouri S&T free film series.