Thursday, December 18, 2014

Torture R US: Who the We Is

In her New Yorker piece, Janet Mayer reviews the 500 page report from the Senate Select Intelligence Committee which details the systematic torture program carried out by the CIA, in the name of protecting the American people from another 9/11.

"Before it was released, [it] came under attack from Republicans, including Dick Cheney, who, although he hadn't read it, called it 'full of crap.' Senator Mitch McConnell, the incoming majority leader, castigated it as 'ideologically motivated and distorted."

Mad Dog well recalls when President George W. Bush responded to the photos from Abu Gharib prison from the oval office saying, "This isn't who we are."

But, in fact, it turned out it is exactly who we are. The question, of course, is who the "we" is.  You and I may be repelled by torture, but the sadists who find work at the CIA are also "we."  So are the Congressmen and Senators who support torture, if not in name, in practice. So is Joe Sixpack, who snarls at the wusses, mostly Democrats, who shrink from doing the unpleasant but necessary thing. 

Now, Mad Dog hastens to add, he knew scores of people who worked at the CIA, although, for the most part, they were not on the "operational" side of the agency. They were analysts, and they were, typically, erudite, analytic, and not, at least overtly, cruel or sadistic.  

But then you have Dick Cheney raising the specter of terrorists setting off a nuclear bomb in Washington, DC or New York every time anyone questions the centrality of torture to protecting the homeland.

What the report shows, in fact, "In all twenty cases most widely cited by the CIA, as evidence that abusive interrogation methods were necessary, the same information could have been obtained, and frequently was obtained, through non-coercive, methods. Further, the interrogations often produced false information, ensnaring innocent people, sometimes with tragic results."

And, forgotten in all this are those people still held at Guantanamo, without charges, without trial, let alone due process. What the Congress has said--and if the Congress isn't a "we" who is?--is that we do not have to honor the principles of the Constitution when it comes to what we do as a government, as a people off shore. The Constitution only protects US Citizens when they are on US soil.

There is something bizarre about the release of Alan Gross after five years in a Cuban prison for the crime of trying to help Jews in Cuba to hook up to the internet. Mr. Gross was abused, lost most of his teeth, and emerged, at age 60 something, just barely alive. We all look at the Cuban regimen which would do this and decry their ruthlessness. But just down the road, at the other end of the island, we have American held prisoners, who have never been charged with a crime, never had the benefit of even a kangaroo court, were just simply imprisoned--oh, excuse me, they are not "prisoners" they are "detainees." Some for more than a dozen years. They are our "guests." We do not believe in due process for these people, because, you know, they were captured in Afghanistan and they must be bad.

So, who are we? 

Who we is, apparently, is a nation of people who can be stirred into a frenzy of fear, and once that happens all restraints are dissolved and we can bring people to near drowning, torture them in other creative ways, hold them prisoner forever, as long as folks in the homeland can sleep well at night, secure they live in the home of the brave, land of the free.

No comments:

Post a Comment