The Talking Dog

August 25, 2009, Slow Torture News Day... Not

Via the now indispensable Bill of Rights Defense Committee, we give you these snippets from... torture news.

We'll start with this item from ABC News noting that in the sort of released (though heavily redacted) CIA inspector general report, the redacted portions show details of at least three deaths in CIA custody, as well as note that a number of detainees in CIA custody "can't be accounted for"... wtf? And it accounts some of the waterboarding of KSM that came close to killing him (prior to the opportunity to stage his show trial). Also re the CIA IG redacted report, this HuffPost piece notes the juicy bits, threats of torture -by-power-drill, threats against detainee's families, and the good-old mock executions... were a mainstay of the Bush-Cheney program that got us... well, any benefits are classified... sorry.

Glenn Greenwald in Salon gives us two pieces. The first further discusses the above-referenced IG torture report, and, I'll let Glenn take it from here:

To those blithely dismissing all of this as things that don't seem particularly bothersome, I'd say two things:

(1) The fact that we are not really bothered any more by taking helpless detainees in our custody and (a) threatening to blow their brains out, torture them with drills, rape their mothers, and murder their children; (b) choking them until they pass out; (c) pouring water down their throats to drown them; (d) hanging them by their arms until their shoulders are dislocated; (e) blowing smoke in their face until they vomit; (f) putting them in diapers, dousing them with cold water, and leaving them on a concrete floor to induce hypothermia; and (g) beating them with the butt of a rifle -- all things that we have always condemend as "torture" and which our laws explicitly criminalize as felonies ("torture means. . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering . . .") -- reveals better than all the words in the world could how degraded, barbaric and depraved a society becomes when it lifts the taboo on torturing captives.

(2) As I wrote rather clearly, numerous detainees died in U.S. custody, often as a direct result of our "interrogation methods." Those who doubt that can read the details here and here. Those claiming there was no physical harm are simply lying -- death qualifies as "physical harm" -- and those who oppose prosecutions are advocating that the people responsible literally be allowed to get away with murder.

Finally, as for the title of this post: it was just a way of expressing the view that Americans who want to justify or endorse the torture we engaged in should be required to know what was actually done -- not hide behind the comforting myth that "all we did was pour some water down the noses of 3 bad guys"; I wasn't trying to propose a new law compelling that every citizen read the IG Report.

And as to the second Glenn Greenwald piece, Glenn lambastes torture advocates and apologists who believe that the [never tried or even charged] "terrorists have no rights" (Supreme Court holding otherwise be damned... and God damned terrorist loving Ronald Reagan who signed a law making such conduct the most serious of crimes be damned too); the sentiment, I think, calls for this from A Man for All Seasons:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

This Nation piece suggests that Attorney General Holder and President Obama pursue investigations of more than just low level torturers (which, of course is what they are probably going to do), and instead also actually pursue investigations, and if appropriate, prosecutions of Bush-Administration policy-makers at the top. Sorry folks... nothing to see here. We live in the era of the "reverse-Nuremberg defense"... to wit, "I was only giving orders" is now the defense... whether it be Abu Ghraib, or GTMO, or CIA ghost prisons and torture chambers... the low level operatives and grunts may face punishment, but just like in the rest of corporate America, white collar managers and executives are above the law. My college classmate the President (and fellow Columbia alum Attorney General Holder) have to weigh whether they are more afraid of future governments pursuing them in retaliation for pursuing the Bush Administration (or worse, being accused of a political witch hunt themselves), or fearing a future government having to prosecute them for their own complicity in covering up war crimes, which is, itself, a war crime. My money is always on the Inside-the-Beltway-Villagers protecting their own. Sorry... I like Barack, and I like Holder. I'm glad Holder's starting somewhere with an investigation of somebody on this via the special prosecutor appointment, even the limited kabuki version that he's gone for. A start is a start. You'll forgive me if I won't hold any illusiions of having expectations of real accountability. I sure hope I'm proven wrong on this... but, that just isn't how you bet.

Finally, one piece of unambiguously good news: one of those "terrorists" (who some in Congress say we may as well torture... and in his case, we did), Mohammad Jawad (you'll recall that his was the case that caused former commissions prosecutor Darrel Vandeveld [interviewed here] to resign)... anyway, Jawad has finally been released to Afghanistan.

Well, what else can I say? This has been... "Slow Torture News Day... Not."

Update: The Grey Lady weighs in with an editorial calling for a broad-based investigation of high-level Bush Administration officials, as, of course, it suggested is necessitated by the CIA inspector general report. I suppose I'm now supposed to say, "indeed."