Does America Torture?

Merriam-Webster on Torture: 
“The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain.” 

United Nations Conventions on Torture: 
“For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind.” 

The picture below right was one among the memorable photographs collected in evidence that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bush administration was guilty of Crimes Against Humanity, with Bush, who wrote about it in his new book, Cheney, who remains unrepentant, and Rumsfeld, who may still be living in Taos, New Mexico, being the three primary criminals. There were several runners-up. 

The Torture Report: 
On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, Dianne Feinstein, in her role as Chairperson of the Select Committee for the Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program took the Senate podium to present the Executive Summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's Report on CIA torture under the previous administration. The document, which is available online by clicking here, seems to echo all of the previous reports and point fingers at the same people we’ve been talking about since the facts emerged. What the report shows, according to its introduction, is that the abuse performed by the CIA and documented by the investigation was found to be in direct "violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values." 

Some things in particular made me wince, such as the medically unnecessary forced rectal feedings. However, on Sunday, Cheney still claimed the feedings were done for "medical reasons." The former vice president showed little remorse for the dozens of prisoners who were found to have been wrongfully detained, for the man who died, or for people like Khaled El-Masri—a German citizen who was shipped off to Afghanistan and sodomized in a case of mistaken identity. 

Here’s what I’d like to see happen: one dark night, a special ops team slips the same kind of soft cloth bag worn by the detainees over the heads of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld—and whomever else you’d like to add who should be accountable. The next thing the men remember is waking up in small cells in The Hague, where they are tried and found guilty of Crimes Against Humanity. Then, after another long, head-covered nap, they all wake up and find themselves in even smaller cells next to one another at Gitmo, where they are forced to spend the rest of their lives together along with their detainees. Sounds like torture! 

According to Feinstein, the four key findings of the report include: 
  1. The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective. 
  2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public. 
  3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed. 
  4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

Has Torture brought the Maverick Back? 

For those of you who are shocked to see me praising a man I have called bitter and resentful, I have to say that the words he spoke about torture this week sounded like the McCain who made so much sense in years past. When McCain ran against Bush in the republican primary he said, regarding his own party, that he would, “…reform a party corrupted by big money” and, as he later put it, “agents of intolerance.” His comments were accurate, but, instead of working to make his party relevant rather than revengeful, McCain and his buddy Lindsay Graham spent their waking hours—and probably their dream-time as well—thinking about ways to undermine President Obama. But John McCain has a unique perspective on torture, fueled by his personal experience. His words were eloquent and important: 
Mr. President, I rise in support of the release—the long-delayed release—of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summarized, unclassified review of the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that were employed by the previous administration to extract information from captured terrorists. It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose—to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies—but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world. 
I believe the American people have a right—indeed, a responsibility—to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values. 

What We Can Do: 
  1. Read or watch the full presentation, or if you’re up for a 500-page read, go for the entire report, which you can access at:
  2. Watch video of Feinstein's remarks here:
  3. You can write to Senator Feinstein to let her know what you think about the report and what you think should be done: 
  4. Read McCain’s Response to Feinstein:
  5. Or  watch it:
  6. You can be in touch with your own Congress people and ask them to see to it that these War Criminals are brought to justice: and
  7. Add your voice to the 'comments' section below.

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