Our embassies were put on alert this week in anticipation of potential reprisals following the release of the Senate’s CIA torture report. In spite of the gruesome particulars, extremist factions rarely need an incentive to execute threats against the U.S. or other nations which they demonstrably detest.
Nonetheless — and despite pockets of criticism that the report is partisan and flawed — there’s been more than a little unease, especially since the photographs of abusive treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib were circulated a decade ago, that its findings are valid.
But, to read about actual accounts of frequent waterboardings, extended periods of sleep deprivation and the humiliating “rectal rehydration” procedure, more commonly known as an enema, is dreadful and disturbing.
It’s not too difficult to identify with the mindset of many Americans after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Revenge was the order of the day. A knee-jerk response to hunt, find and kill those responsible for the inexcusable slaughter of almost 3,000 innocent civilians.
Others, likely, wanted justice at any cost, even if it meant putting our basic values on hold. But, when justice wasn’t swift and a resolution uncertain, a clandestine program to find and interrogate anyone who might have information or a connection to the fanatical bastards was evidently initiated. And one aspect, as the report outlines, was to obtain information from prisoners by any means possible, including sadistic procedures.
Bits and pieces of that secret operation have leaked out over the years. It made banner headlines when photographic evidence from Abu Ghraib was disseminated and culminates with this Senate torture report that confirms the worst fears of individuals with a sense of decency.
Among the report’s most disturbing findings include the absence of valuable intelligence, even after extended periods of torture; confinement conditions for detainees were harsher than the agency provided to government overseers; the CIA continuously lied to Congress about its Detention and Interrogation policies; in its attempt to keep their hands clean, the CIA began to outsource torture and interrogation operations in 2005; the spy agency never evaluated the program to determine its effectiveness, and the CIA regularly impeded any oversight by its own Office of Inspector General.
Indeed, there are still some Americans, blinded by retribution, who feel the tactics used to extract information are justified, regardless of the means or the results. On the other hand, there are those whose inherent ethics are repulsed by such methods.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was likely one of the architects of the plan for retribution, claims that reports of the rogue torture program are “hooey” and were authorized by the Justice Department. Surely, Justice was pressured by the White House to certify those extreme interrogation methods.
Cheney also said that program produced valuable, timely intelligence, which is at odds from details in the report. There’s little doubt Cheney is evading the facts, just as the CIA did when it lied about the program to the Department of Justice’s legal counsel.
The report indicates the CIA effectively ended its Detention and Interrogation program in 2006, after concerns about legal repercussions arose following unauthorized media leaks, in addition to reduced assistance from once-cooperative allies.
President Obama, in an effort to restore confidence and reassure “enhanced interrogation” would not be repeated, he ordered the CIA to discontinue their use of such brutal tactics when he took office nearly six years ago.
The history of United States is stained by shameful episodes, with slavery and the genocide of Native Americans being the most prominent. For the moment, torture’s not far behind those atrocious events.
Republican Senator John McCain, who was a torture victim as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, praised the release of the report, noting, “Torture damaged our security interests, as well as a reputation for good in the world.”
He added, “The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. The American people are entitled to it nonetheless. They must be able to make judgments about whether these policies…were justified...”
When the U.S. discovers that our adversaries or other governments use severe methods and brutal forms of abuse on prisoners, we’re quick to denounce them. Accordingly, even in the grip of fury and fear following unprovoked aggression, we should never compromise our ethics and our humanity for the sake of national security. When that occurs, we not only sink to the depraved level of fanatical oppressors we’re trying to defeat, we also devalue the basic principles we’ve struggled to uphold for the last 238 years.