By Dennis Loo
Now comes Dick Cheney, the guy everyone thinks is the Prince of Principles and Teller of Truths, reacting to the storm around the torture memos and saying that torture worked.
Dennis Blair, the Obama Director of National Intelligence, echoes this sentiment before revising it and acknowledging that there’s no way of knowing if the “intelligence” could have been obtained by methods that didn’t include suffocating people with water 266 times.
Let’s suppose that torture did on occasion produce something useful to the US military/intelligence.
It goes against everything that interrogators and torture victims tell us, but, for the sake of honoring the Teller of Truths, let’s suppose he’s right.
They have yet to provide any evidence of said actionable information, by the way.
But let’s give the Prince of Principles the benefit of the doubt since he has such a peerless record of consistently telling the truth about everything.
Let’s grant him that something useful was learned through waterboarding and walling and putting insects inside a box around people’s heads and confining them in coffin sized boxes in the dark for two hours at a time.
Does that make it right?
Let’s leave aside the fact that torture, according to international and national law, is illegal under any and all circumstances.
Let’s leave aside the fact that for every person who this government – our government, our land of the “free” and “home of the brave” – has kidnapped and sent to torture prisons in Uzbekistan, Poland, Syria, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Guantanamo and Bagram, scores of Muslims and Arabs have sworn their undying enmity for the U.S.
As Alberto Mora, Former Navy General Counsel (2001-2006) testified before Congress on June 17, 2008:
“[T]here are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”
Let’s leave all of that aside.
Let’s just look at the morality of this for a moment, shall we?
What makes American lives more precious than anyone else’s?
When Iraqi women lose their husbands to torture dungeons run by the U.S., do they not weep for their love one just like American wives?
Are not their tears just as wet?
Is not the trembling in their bodies, as they shake from agony, just as real?
When Afghan fathers lose their sons to torture dungeons run by the U.S., do they not cry for their loved one, just like American fathers?
When they cry out in pain, do their voices seem less real than American fathers’ voices when they learn that their son (or daughter) has been killed in action?
When Pakistani daughters lose their younger brother to American drone attacks in their land, do her tears and mystification about why her dear brother is dead seem less real to us?
I could not help but think as I read about Obama’s appearance before cheering CIA agents the other day, what message he is sending to the CIA agents who still abhor the idea of torture and who are deeply disturbed by the revelations that the CIA and their leaders in the White House and Defense Department authorized and directed torture as policy.
Not only does torture brutalize the torture victim, it brutalizes the torturer. Ask the frontline soldiers who have been charged with torture what this has done to them to know that they could commit atrocities.
It brutalizes the country that permits torture to go on in its name.
By what right does Obama, who knows that torture has not only continued at Guantanamo since his election, but has gotten worse, have a right to say that this is a time for “reflection”?
“A freed Guantanamo prisoner has said conditions at the US detention camp in Cuba have worsened since President Barack Obama was elected, claiming guards wanted to ‘take their last revenge.’
“Binyam Mohamed, the first detainee to be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay since Obama took office, also said British agents ‘sold me out’ by cooperating with his alleged torturers, in his first interview since release which was published Sunday.
“Mohamed, a 30-year-old Ethiopian-born former British resident, gave further details of what he has called the ‘medieval’ torture he faced in Pakistan and Morocco, as well as in a secret CIA prison in Kabul and at Guantanamo.
"’The result of my experience is that I feel emotionally dead,’ he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. ‘It seems like a miracle my brain is still intact.’
“Far from improving, Mohamed said conditions at Guantanamo have worsened since Obama was elected in November.”
Any change that we can believe in is up to us to make happen. That was true before the election and it’s true now.