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False Torture Debate

False Torture Debate
on 2007/12/14 12:10:00 (70 reads)

Paris, December 13, 2007 – It is a strange affair when the CIA’s
destruction of videos made of its torture of prisoners has created a
greater scandal in the U.S. Congress and the press than the fact that
the torture itself took place.

The actual scandal is that the United States has been torturing
prisoners on orders from the top of the Bush administration, using
methods of torture authorized from the top that the administration still
refuses to condemn or renounce. The White House says “the United States
does not torture,” and therefore nothing that it does is torture.

It is equally important that the U.S. Congress has been unable, or
unwilling, as a body, to condemn torture in unequivocal terms, nor have
Bush presidential nominees to high legal and judicial office been
willing in testifying to Congress to identify torture as anything other
than what America’s enemies do, not us -- since as the president says,
we Americans do not torture.

Yet were the smallest child compelled to watch this procedure known as
water-boarding, he or she would know that it was torture. He or she
would scream in horror at the terrible thing being done to this man (or
woman; it seems that the U.S. does not discriminate sexually in either
victims nor professional torturers.)


Where does this leave us? Everyone knows that the policy of the United
States is to torture, while the policy of the president and his men is
cynically to deny it. The CIA dsstroys the evidence of this torture --
which it has conscientiously filmed, just as Nazi torturers and camp
officials made careful records of their wartime actions and victims:
records which then were used against them in their postwar trials.

This may be significant. It is possible that America’s torturers and
their superiors have recognized that whatever the administration’s
efforts, a non-negligible risk exists that individuals responsible for
torture could eventually end before some new version of the Nuremberg
tribunals that caused Nazi war criminals to be hung, or the new
International Criminal Court, or some equivalent war crimes tribunal at
The Hague.

Just this week [Dec. 12] the Bosnian Serb general who commanded 44
months of the 1992-1995 siege of Sarajevo was convicted at The Hague of
murder, inhumane acts, and orchestrating terror, and was sentenced to 33
years imprisonment, under the same international war crimes accords that
include the international ban on torture.

As the Bush administration approaches its end, such thoughts may have
arisen in some official minds. The CIA may have less than total faith in
the willingness of a new administration to protect it (especially after
what happened to the agency after Vietnam). All but the deluded among
its leaders know that they have been ordering, facilitating, or
committing crimes including torture, which is a felony in U.S. law,
illegal in international law, forbidden by U.S. military manuals, and by
common international opinion a loathsome practice. They probably have
thought of what a prosecutor could do with those videos.

They would be mad to think that George W. Bush or Richard Cheney would
ever declare to future international or American tribunals that whatever
the CIA did in the war on terror was done on their orders, and that they
assume full responsibility.

The presidential and vice-presidential position is that the United
States does not torture. If anyone at the CIA or elsewhere committed
torture, it must have been a rogue operation. (It was Donald Rumsfeld
whose sense of command responsibility led him to say of Abu Ghraib that
the problem lay with “a few hillbillies” who would be prosecuted – as
indeed they were.)

The American nation has placed itself in an impossible position. The
president says we do not torture. Yet everyone knows the president has
with transparent euphemisms ordered the use of torture. White House and
Justice Department meetings have been reported by participants in which
officials lingered salaciously over the various near-death tortures to
authorize.

The discussion of recent days in the Congress has concerned who ordered
the destruction of the tapes. “Not I,” says the new head of the CIA,
Gen. Michael Hayden; “I’ve just arrived.” “Not I, says George Tenet,
former CIA director, although he is said to have ordered the torture
filmed. The tapes reportedly were destroyed under Porter Goss, Tenet’s
successor. Congress asks: Why weren’t we told?

It was not told because it already knew. That is the big secret that is
no longer a secret. As early as 2002 CIA officials were briefing members
of congressional intelligence committees on these practices. Those
briefed included the present Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy
Pelosi. They had a “virtual tour” of all that was going on, including
the renditions, secret facilities abroad, and especially the torture.

The congressional reaction? According to Congressman Porter Goss, later
head of the CIA, it was “not just approval, but encouragement.” Two of
the legislators, according to The Washington Post, asked if what the
agency was doing “was tough enough.”

No wonder everyone is happy today to call for special investigations of
who destroyed the tapes. That changes the subject. The important
information is the subject of the videos: state torture. Who in the
government was responsible; who knew about it; who went along. And who
objected? And to judge from the public reaction to date: who cares? The
national consensus seems to be that it is better to have destroyed the
evidence.

© Copyright 2007 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights
Reserved.
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