Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"We do not torture"

You don't say?

To me the saddest part about this hot mess is that we pretty much all knew all of this all along. We knew what was going on, or, at least, that something fairly awful was going on, and didn't care enough to make a fuss about knowing the details or care enough to stop it. Seydlitz discussed this all here four years ago; the real crimes here were committed by We the People. We knew all of this, and we knew that the whole nonsense about how this was "protecting us" and "fighting terrorism" was nonsense ginned up by people many of whom wanted to see just how far the American People were willing to go into the darkness if distracted enough by fear and foolishness.

And if there was ever any doubt of that distance this report clarifies that there really are no limits to the fear and inertia of the American Public. Provided I can spin a scary enough story, provided I can puff even the thinnest smokescreen imaginable, I can do anything. I can torture. I can kill. I can commit the sorts of war crimes that the Arsenal of Democracy executed people for in the Forties.

And I can do it in all-but-plain-view because the huge unmoving slorg of Public Opinion will be utterly unarsed enough to even bother to ask questions, to so much as slip a letter of reprimand in my 201 File.

Execute me?

Don't make me fucking laugh.

And make no mistake; without punishment this will happen again. And again There's always a good reason for breaking the laws. Smoking guns become mushroom clouds. Not fighting them there means fighting them here. They hate our freedoms. They're coming to kill us.

But then you find that if you cut down the laws to get at the devil, when you catch him you'll find that there is nowhere for you to shelter from the broad highway of evil you've opened up, the laws all being flat.

Update: The always-eloquent Charlie Pierce has more. And worse. And much, much more and much, much worse.
"I no longer take seriously anyone, in or out of government, who talks about "the debate" over whether the United States tortured people. The only debate left is the debate over whether or not it will remain the policy of this nation to torture people, or to outsource the job of torturing people, or to otherwise commit moral and national suicide by euphemism.

Anyone who still believes there's a "debate" over whether or not the United States, using techniques previously used by the Japanese Imperial Army, the Gestapo, the North Korean People's Army, and the KGB, tortured people is an idiot and a coward and I have no time for them. Not any more. Debate's over. We became what they think we are. And worse. This is not debatable and, alas, it is anything but a surprise."


  1. This subject never goes away . . . four years ago I posted on this and here we are pretty much hearing the same arguments as the system of repression only hardens . . .

  2. And yet, know hope.

    Many powerful interests would have preferred that this report not exist, or never see daylight.

    They failed.

  3. I think the only difference, seydlitz, is that we're not really hearing "arguments". There's really no "argument" that can justify this. Rather, I'd argue that what this does is make the "system of repression" (in the form of organized, "authorized", officially sponsored torture of helpless prisoners) plainly visible. There is now no way to deny that the United States tortured people. There is now no way to pretend that this was "a few bad apples" or "a rogue program". It was clearly the policy of the intelligence arm of the U.S. government to use of many of the same methods of torture for which we executed members of the Gestapo and the Kempeitai after WW2.

    So at this point the choice is very much black-or-white; are we either truly a "nation of laws"... (including the antitorture portions of the Bill of Rights, the Geneva and Hague Conventions, and the United Nations Convention on Torture which the U.S. signed in 1984 at the urging of President Ronald Reagan who said at the time:

    "The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”"

    ...or "a nation of men" who are happy to sanction the torture of their captives, regardless of the legal status of those captives.

    Four years ago you made the point that these individual war crimes and lawlessness were part and parcel of a broader push by segments of the U.S. political elites to push the boundaries of autocracy, that the acts themselves were merely the byproducts of a system that was being redesigned by those wishing to remove the irksome democratic checks on their freedom of action. But at least at that time there was an element of "argument"; the actual proof was not in view.

    Now it is, and the U.S. public is confronted with the choice between acquiesence and rejection.

    Wanna bet me all the money in your pocket against all the money in mine which We the People will choose?

  4. I think it's a mere symptom of a much greater problem.

    One party mastered the art of tricking voters into supporting it based on psychological tricks (largely exploitation of aversions and fears) that it doesn't need good actual policy offers or good actual candidates to win elections.
    This led to a growing disdain for research and an ever-growing emphasis on (negative) feelings.

    It's easily visible how such a setting could led to Cheney as VP, disregard for what interrogation experts actually know and violation of people coined as enemies.

  5. Chief- Because it really has no direct impact on the general population, I think far too many Americans have no issues with the US being a rogue nation. Not just militarily, but in every regard. I have heard few ever address the global impact of the mortgage mess, for example. Few express outrage over US banks engaging in international interest rate fraud. What we do abroad is not of moral or legal interest, unless is inconveniences folks at home, and so far, insufficient inconvenience has been suffered.

  6. We're hearing the same ole spiel from the same people Chief. Those who have been against this all along, including most if not all of those with any knowledge of intelligence interrogation, are repeating what they've been saying as well.

    It's not about intelligence interrogation, or "being afraid" or "wanting to be rough and tough", it's about changing the character of the state and the Cheneyites (including BHO) have been largely successful with this. Obviously a majority of Americans have little problem with state-sanctioned torture, or total surveillance, or summary execution without any legal process, or a foreign policy that sees violence as the preferred method, or for that matter Wall Street manipulating what's labelled as our "democracy" and using the US treasury as their own private piggy bank.

  7. The whackos don't understand. They have no insight other than what they see in Hollywood movies or TV where good guys slap around bad guys to save a kidnapped child, or to stop a city from being bombed. This is their only info and they think it is a good thing. Their morality comes from bad fiction.

    I have tried to convince Joe and Jane Sixpacks of my acquaintance that torture does not work, and is counterproductive, and is against the law. But they think they know better because they have been told so by: a] Fox news, b] Deadeye Dick Cheney, c] Hollywood, or d] all of the above. The only argument that has ever made a dent in their love of torture is when I tell them "it is against God's law". That gives a pause to some of them, but not all though, even though they claim to be good churchgoing Christians.

    PS - I should not have just blamed Fox above. All the media seems to encourage debate on the subject and bring in so-called "enhanced interrogation" experts on the to dispute that it does not work, or that the ticking atom/bio/chem bomb is worth the risk.

  8. mike- I would add that there is also a significant element that sees torture as proper retribution for "terrorist acts", whether or not it produces valid info. Is the bitch slapping they see on TV or in the movies influencing American cultural mores, or more likely catering to them? I sincerely fear the latter. Just as foul language that was generally acceptable in "private circles" was once banned, and now flourishes on screen, perhaps American society's more brutal side has just come out of the closet and onto the screen. It is the fuel for fear mongering, and for some bizarre, a huge portion of the American population requires something to fear.

  9. I remember saying on Intel Dump, "We became the very thing we despised."

    And if memory serves, that went over like a screen door in a submarine.

    Anyway, agreed, Chief, the debate for torture ended in 2004, and the charge of accessory to a crime in progress plus aiding and abetting the perpetrators in the commission of of a felony in progress is now laid at the feet of the American people.

    I feel we are no longer competent to police ourselves, nor unbiased in our contemplation and self-reflection in regards to our national complicity to purge the offending parties from positions of authority or power.

    Sorry, we have so lost our way, but, then, I'm forced to ask the question...did we ever know where we were going in the first place?


  10. sheer-

    I think the term we used on Intel Dump was WASF.

  11. Here's something I was thinking about today.

    We've heard all the excuses, defenses, and apologies for the torture. The people who defend this have a pantsload of "reasons" why it wasn't really torture, why, even if it was, it was only used on a few bad people...and so on.

    But...if that's the case, why haven't the torturers come out of the shadows?

    I mean...if I know that Evil Abu Badguy knows where the nuke is hidden, I'm gonna go in vice-grips first, right? That's how the movie heroes do it, right?

    And I'm gonna keep those cameras rolling, rolling through every horrible atrocity I do to the sonofabitch, through his agonized screams as he gives up the address...and then I'm going to step forward and demand a trial. Because I'm going to be aquitted and, if not, I'm going to be pardoned. Because...I was a hero, right? I saved the city, me and my vice-grips, right?

    The simple fact that every piece of actual physical evidence has been either destroyed or so deeply hidden that it is nearly impossible to find is what makes my bullshit detector go off like a fire siren. I don't think that the torture revealed jack shit. I don't think there's ANY evidence, anywhere, that comes anywhere near justifying - even if there WAS a way to "justify" this - the torture.

    I think that the torture did just what it was designed to do; get the tortured to scream what their torturers wanted to hear. Get confessions, just like it did for the Inquisition and the NKVD, so the auto-de-fe' and the show-trials could proceed.

    Sometimes I think that infuriates me as much as the infamy itself; that these people - all of them, from the guy who cleaned the cells to the President and Vice-President - dragged my country down into the shit, and for nothing but faked "testimony" tht they could use for their own petty purposes. Our honor was tossed away for a mess of pottage.


  12. seydlit89z has it right. It seems obvious to me that our elected leaders enjoy the plausible deniability that comes from having a CIA. Not that they (our leadership) always knows the details - in fact they don't want to b/c that would bust the deniability - but it's more a case of willful ignorance. Any reasonably intelligent person with a little access should be able to guess how desired objectives were achieved. What good luck! that annoying Cambodian royal is deposed. Oh wow! the govt of Iran has changed hands to our guy and dissenters are quieted. Amazing! the govt of Chile is no longer left leaning and the anti-US interests President is dead. What good luck!, Islamic extremists are giving up information while enjoying our hospitality at the GITMO.

    Who would have guessed that the CIA was doing anything immoral and against US and/or international law?



    The CIA and each individual that participated in the torture was in the wrong, but it seems obvious that the "program" involved two Presidents, their administrations and god only knows how many congress people.

    But it's old habit going back to the 1950s.

    no one

  13. Al - You are right on about the retribution motive. An unwritten one though as that is never mentioned by the public promoters of torture.

    As for the question of whether TV & movies are influencing or catering to Americans seeming love of torture: I vote for some type of self-feedback loop. Similar to the aerodynamic flutter that caused the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse. I see no easy way to put a damping effect on this other than shaming which doesn't seem to work or prosecution which sadly is not going to happen.

  14. The other day, an acquaintance posted on Facebook the infamous picture of a human falling head first from one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 with the caption, "You are upset with how we interrogate terrorists? Tell this man's family." She then asked for her "friends" to share how they felt about it.

    Some dickwad responded with something along the lines of "What was done to the terrorists worked and got good intel. Read the CIA rebuttal. In Viet Nam, we (Military Intelligence working with CIA operatives) would take two Viet Cong up in a helo and throw one out. The other would give us all the intel he had to offer". He said it was done just after the Tet offensive, and saved many lives by enabling "us" to head off follow on attacks.

    I identified myself as a Viet Nam helo driver and retired Soldier and responded, "By 'we" are you saying you committed murder, in violation of the UCMJ, US law and numerous Conventions to which the US is a signatory? Or are you just passing on tales you were told or read?"

    Never saw someone distance himself from personal involvement so rapidly in my life. "Not me, but the Military Intel and CIA were alleged to have done this."

    It's all an abstract to those who support this crap. Obama described 9/11 as the most devastating assault on America in our history. Our historically illiterate and cowardly population hasn't a clue that equally and even more devastating assaults were visited upon cities, towns and villages on an almost daily basis in continental Europe during WWII by both the bad guys and so called "liberators".

    We are a nation of penny ante, overwhelmed by fear cowards.

  15. Al-


    no one-

    Seen your comments over at SST. While I support PL's suggestions I don't think they have a chance in hell of being implemented . . . we've gone too far for that.

    1. seydlitz, Way too far.

    2. seydlitz, The point I was attempting to make with PL is that we started going down the slippery slope decades ago by providing, at a minimum, logistics and support to "our bastards" and their torture programs; whether this be the uglier side of the Phoenix program in the RVN or some right wing dictator in Latin America or the Shah of Iran. The then were twisted domestic programs, like MK Ultra, that broke a lot of laws and went way out of ethical bounds. There was a little hang wringing at the Church Commission and then..........nothing. There's a history here that should not be ignored. The CIA didn't wake up on 9/12 and realize that there is something called "torture" and that it might deployed in the war on terrorism. They'd had their feet in that cesspool all along and it was just a tiny step to dive in completely. PL didn't want to go there. We all have our blind spots and chinks in our armor.

      no one

    3. I follow PL on a lot of stuff, but he does have inconsistencies imo.

      You may find this of interest . . .


    4. seydlitz, Thanks

      no one

  16. As if this wasn't enough of a shitshow...I think that - while no one is fundamentally correct in that this is to a certain extent "business as usual" with the covert arms of the U.S. intelligence and defence establishment what makes THIS particular issue so impossible to solve is that in this case the dirty work was done on the Bushies watch.

    And therein lies the horror and the tragedy that is the current Republican Party.

    This country - every country - needs political representation for "conservative" ideas. That said, the GOP as presently constituted is not "conservative"; it is a monkeyhouse of fiscal unreality and irresponsibility (when your answer to every fiscal problem is "tax cuts" you're not even kidding yourself anymore...), social toxicity (racism, sexism, every "ism" conceivable outside of "straight rich white people"), and scientific and economic weapons-grade moronity (climate change denialism, Christopathic theocracy, deregulatory fanaticism).

    And torture.

    The simple fact is that the GOP has completely embraced torture, that is, criminality. It now cannot let go and it cannot back away or it would have to accept that a large percentage of its senior political leadership would be be indicted, convicted, imprisoned (and thus forever disbarred from public office).

    So that sets this up as a horrible problem - because torture has become utterly political. The GOP cannot afford to let any sort of public prosecution or even a "truth commission" sort of public catharsis go forward; in it they would stand utterly condemned. The Dems cannot prosecute it; they would be seen as "pursuing a political agenda".

    So now it DOES become a "bipartisan standard". The GOP committed the crimes of commission, the Dems committed the crimes of accessories-after-the-fact. The U.S. government now not only has a bipartisan standard of "we're fine with covert monkeyshines that involve overthrowing foreign governments and/or assassinating foreign leaders and/or subverting foreign entities" but includes "kidnapping and torturing anyone identified as "enemies of the state"...

    So. WASF.

  17. "So that sets this up as a horrible problem - because torture has become utterly political."

    Yes. We have come upon a bizarre and horrible crossroads. Looks like we will pull a Robert Johnson.

    The GOP's stance on this is despicable.

    That said, while the Dem.s get points for bringing it up, but now what? Do they follow through? I'd eat my hat and my boots if they did.

    no one

  18. I think I posted a long while back about meeting a retired jurist that refused FDR's request to be a judge or prosecutor of Japanese "war crimes". Not that he didn't think such crimes were prosecutable, but because he held that such tribunals were really one last salvo by the victors over the vanquished. Were they to investigate and prosecute all alleged crimes by all parties in the conflict, he would have been willing to serve, or as a defense counsel. Harry Hopkins defended the tribunals on the basis of the "scale and extreme methods" of the Japanese. The jurist was unmoved.

    Unfortunately, that jurist hit the nail on the head, and nothing has really changed in the American psyche since that day in late 1943. Appearing on "Meet the Press", Dick(head) Cheney defined torture as the 9/11 attack: "Torture is a man talking on his cell phone in the burning upper floors of the WTC, saying his goodbyes to his wife and children." Anything short of inflicting 3,000 innocent casualties in one terrorist blow does not meet Cheney's definition of torture. When the journalist asked Cheney's defense of waterboarding when Japanese personnel were sentenced to death by Allied tribunals for the same actions, he dismissed it with a similar trite phrase.

    After WWII, we even created new crimes and prosecuted and executed people ex post facto. They were the "Bad Guys", were vanquished and deserved no mercy. We were the "Good Guys", were the victors and could thus write the rules in a way that, by definition elevated us above the vanquished, not just militarily, but morally. Who in Washington can afford to open the torture can of worms ala Nuremberg or Tokyo? Start charging US high ranking officials with serious crimes, and the defense lawyers will have a field day trying to incriminate everyone in office. And let's be serious, do these crimes rise anywhere near the level of criminality as a consensual blowjob in the Oval Office.

    Ain't gonna be no follow through. The Dems hands, by omission, are not totally clean on this. The best they could have hoped for was a few political points with the public. Unfortunately, they are probably preaching to the choir. So it will be a passing rain shower in American life. Sure as hell won't make it into Texas approved history text books.

  19. Al -

    IMHO the "scale and extreme methods" argument is valid. Not only for the those in the far east but for those in Europe also. Even though his crimes are not comparable to the scale of Tojo's or Hitler's, Deadeye Dick Cheney should still be prosecuted. Unfortunately you and I know that will not happen.

    My beefs with the war crime trials were:
    1] it did not cover Unit 731's human biowar experimentation
    2] too many were never prosecuted for the many massacres of civilians, or other horrors: i.e. POWs burned alive (Palawan), or used as chemical warfare experiments (Kai Islands), or cannibalized (New Guinea and elsewhere): the comfort women never got justice either for being forced into prostitution.
    3] it was haphazard, many of the executions were a sop to our allies. Prime Minister Hirota probably did not deserve the death penalty but it was insisted upon by the Koreans and Chinese.
    4] it did not prosecute enough IJA allies that participated in atrocities such as Koreans (with the exception of General Hong Sa-Ik), or Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, Burmese, etc (or it did prosecute some who were pardoned or given amnesty).
    5] ditto for the European theater where tens of thousands of Nazi allies - Austrians, Croatians, Bosnians, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Dutch, French, Italians, Hungarians, Romanians, a few Danes & Spanish, etc - were never prosecuted for their war crimes.

  20. mike-

    Neither the jurist mentioned did, nor would I refute the "scale and extreme methods" aspect of the criminality. As you note, however, the [i][b]administration of justice[/b][/i] was far from just, but laden heavily with political interests of the Allies, particularly the US. Was the privileged treatment of Nazi scientists under Operation Paperclip just? The victors simply imposed punishment on the vanquished as suited their interests. While punishment was justified, it was intentionally not applied in a just manner.

    Abu Ghraib is a great example of how we prosecute our own. Serious punishment (jail, etc) was imposed on the troops. Superiors who fostered the outrages had their "careers derailed". Wow, a COL would never advance to BG. A Reserve BG retired as a COL. Problem with the Torture Scandal" is that not only the hands on guys did it, but officials all the way up the chain approved of it, and in writing. We don't want to indict officials, so we can't indict the people who followed their orders?

    Nope, we are Merkins, and we don't do bad shit. Or at least not as bad as the other guys, who make us do the bad shit we do.

  21. Al -

    You are right. Even today, the media is aghast at the CIA grunts that did the actual deed, while giving Cheney, Bush, Yoo, Rice, and Tenet a pass. Seems like the entire leadership of the Bush administration. Only Ashcroft was a dissenter, that guy deserves a lot more credit, him and Zelikow.

    The most disgusting part to me is the $81,000,000 in your and my taxes paid to Mitchell Jessen and Associates for torture techniques. Plus another pledged $5,000,000 for defense attorneys if they were ever prosecuted. Time for another political and social upheaval similar to the one we had 239 years ago.

  22. I am curious what, if anything will be done by the medical provider guilds. Medical professionals observed the torture. They took notes, analyzed results and then made suggestions about altering the conditions of the torture. They then observed, analyzed and made further suggestions on interrogation tactics and conditions.

    This sort of human experimentation is literally a crime against humanity.

    You will see how deep the rot goes by observing what the various medical guilds do.

  23. Ael- The medical, psychological and psychiatric associations all hold to the "Do No Harm" principle. However, all three have ducked the issue by saying that their members also have an obligation to ensure no harm to the society at large, particularly when "following orders". It is quite clear that non of these associations intend to impose professional discipline on their members, although the American Medical Association has written to Obama expressing that they are "troubled" by it all.

    FWIW, the AMA's Code of Ethics has this to say about torture:

    Torture refers to the deliberate, systematic, or wanton administration of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatments or punishments during imprisonment or detainment.

    Physicians must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason. Participation in torture includes, but is not limited to, providing or withholding any services, substances, or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture. Physicians must not be present when torture is used or threatened.

    Physicians may treat prisoners or detainees if doing so is in their best interest, but physicians should not treat individuals to verify their health so that torture can begin or continue. Physicians who treat torture victims should not be persecuted. Physicians should help provide support for victims of torture and, whenever possible, strive to change situations in which torture is practiced or the potential for torture is great.

    I would expect the associations to take the same level of punitive action against their members as the government will take against the perpetrators of all this. none.