The following letter by Ray Warner, who is usually calm and balanced in his frequent challenges to regressives on the squishy, fascist fringes of America’s right-wing swamplands, appeared in yesterday’s Sentinel Record, under the title “The torture debate”. In my opinion it is an exercise in tortured nuance… Read and decide for yourself (my lengthy response follows):
There has already been considerable discussion regarding the policy of the United States on “enhanced interrogation” following the 9/11 attack by terrorists. There have been, and will continue be, varying definitions of what constitutes “torture” and whether the “enhanced interrogation” techniques crossed that line. It would seem to have been a prudent decision to release information about what was done in the name of enhanced interrogation so that our government and the American people can more succinctly define our interrogation processes in the future. Many will debate that releasing such information will put Americans at risk all over the world and in the same breath, say we did nothing wrong. We know from our history that, like others, we too make mistakes in the interest of national safety. Wiretapping of leaders of our allies, like Germany, needed to be discussed and a determination made whether or not it should be done.
Another major issue being debated is whether or not the enhanced interrogation methods provided the necessary intelligence to thwart future attack and to discover the location of those individuals responsible for the 9/11 attack. Once again, there are many opinions on this subject as well, but it would be hard to believe that some helpful information was not obtained. On the other hand, Sen. John McCain believes that, under extreme duress, an individual is willing to say anything the interrogators want to hear. He goes on to say that you can’t count on the validity of the information. Now the $64 question. How much should the validity of the information gained play into the development of a policy on how far we would go to get that information?
Another major question is how we want others around the world to define us as a nation and how we want to define ourselves. Years ago, we made a decision and signed the treaty at the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of prisoners at a time of war. We define those who torture and behead our citizens as terrorists. How do we want history to define us?
– Monsieur d’Nalgar, Monday, December 29, 2014 CE
I usually like Ray Warner’s thoughtful, measured essays on the issues of the day, but he really missed it by a mile on this one. First of all, there is absolutely no evidence that torture works. There is only hearsay by the proponents of torture. These are people who are, in fact, international war criminals with a vested interest in convincing gullible and blood-lusty Americans that their disgusting means are somehow justified by ends for which they offer no proof.
Alfreda Bikowsky, for example, is one of the CIA’s biggest cheerleaders for torture (the lead character in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” was based on her) but she’s also the analyst who failed to share information that might have prevented the terror of 9-11. She is, in fact, responsible for a series of deadly blunders that Glenn Greenwald described as “a long string of significant errors and malfeasance.” She likes to talk up torture but the other stuff, not so much…
And here’s what Robert Fisk wrote on December 14, about the man who is everywhere these days defending torture, the Dark Lord himself: “Cheney wishes us to believe, of course, that these poor men gave important information to the vile creatures who were torturing them. That’s exactly what medieval inquisitions discovered when they accused the innocent of witchcraft. Almost to a man – and woman – the victims admitted that they had flown through the air. Perhaps that’s what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, after being waterboarded 183 times, told his CIA torturers. He could fly through the air. A terrorist human drone.”
Our present complacency with American torture reminds me of a scene from Sidney Lumet’s 1964 movie “Fail-Safe”, where a right-wing (and self-important) professor is arguing for a nuclear sneak attack on Moscow. It goes something like this:
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: You know what you’re saying?
Prof. Groeteschele: Do you believe that Communism is not our mortal enemy?
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: You’re justifying murder.
Prof. Groeteschele: Yes, to keep from being murdered.
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: In the name of what? To preserve what? Even if we do survive, what are we? Better than what we say they are? What gives us the right to live, then? What makes us worth surviving, Groeteschele? That we are ruthless enough to strike first?
Prof. Groeteschele: Yes! Those who can survive are the only ones worth surviving.
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: Fighting for your life isn’t the same as murder.
Prof. Groeteschele: Where do you draw the line once you know what the enemy is? How long would the Nazis have kept it up, General, if every Jew they came after had met them with a gun in his hand? But I learned from them, General Black. Oh, I learned.
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: You learned too well, Professor. You learned so well that now there’s no difference between you and what you want to kill.
And that, my friends, is the ultimate argument against torture. Even if “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not about sadistic impulses to exact kinky revenge on the perpetrators of 9-11 (and, by extension, on all boogedy boogedy Muslims), once we Americans began openly doing it, there was then no difference between us and those we like to torture. None at all.
Never has the hypocrisy of our “Christian nation” exceptionalism been so exposed as it is now. Where do we, as a people who once claimed high ideals, go from here? We finally ended our genocide of indigenous populations and the practice of trading dark-skinned humans as if they were expendable farm-supply commodities. Will we now abandon our affinity for torture?
Hot Springs, Arkansas