The banality of evil is alive and well in the “civilized” world

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The casual brutality with which man treats his fellow man is nowhere near as surprising as is the astonishment with which so-called polite society greets the news of such ritualistic barbarism.

Torture is, after all, a bestial remnant of humanity’s atavistic past. Is it not? And where it still occurs in the world’s dark enclaves, where fanaticism festers and seeps like an infected wound, surely civilized principles of democracy, justice, faith and moral rectitude will soon ride like horsemen of the apocalypse to smite the villains where they stand.

Certainly, it can’t happen here. “Canada,” Foreign Minister John Baird declares with all the certitude of a specimen of the most evolved species on the planet, “does not torture.”

Perhaps not, but members of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency – whose religious, educational and social pedigrees do not stray far from Mr. Baird’s, or, for that matter anybody else’s in this country – most assuredly have. And, according to findings released last week by the American Senate Committee on Intelligence, they have done so with relish.

According to a Global News synopsis, gleaned from the 500-page executive summary of the Committee’s 6,000-page report, CIA operatives routinely deployed despicable tactics to extract information from the detainees and often undocumented prisoners in their clutches in the years following the 9/11 attacks against New York and Washington, D.C..

These measures, Global reports, included: “Rectal rehydration, a form of feeding through the rectum” for which “the report found no medical necessity; ice baths; water boarding; weeks of sleep deprivation; slapping and slamming of detainees against walls; confining detainees to small boxes; keeping detainees isolated for prolonged periods (i.e. 47 days in one case); threatening prisoners with death or by telling them their families would suffer, including harm to their children, sexual abuse of the mother of one man and cutting the throat of another man’s mother.”

The news swept through the world so rapidly, so remorselessly, that the U.S. government ordered all of its embassies and consulates on high alert, for fear of reprisals.

Meanwhile the Democratic chair of the intelligence committee, Senator Diane Feinstein, had this to say: “History will judge us by our commitment to a just society, government by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again.'”

Where have we heard that before?

The wretched truth is that, for years, all media, everywhere – apart from Fox News, of course – have reported the awful abuses of the past several years. Till now, officialdom’s response has been to deny, deflect and distract, feeding successfully into the general public’s determination to keep its head firmly planted in the sand. Among those who allowed that such interrogation practices probably comprised standard operating procedure during the George W. Bush era, the compelling argument was that if they saved even one innocent life from terror, they were justified.

In fact, though, according to the Committee report, they haven’t and, so, weren’t.

Indeed, no credible evidence indicates that the torture of one, or many, ever averted organized predations on hapless citizens of any country. Tragically, such gruesome methods  just might have inspired them.

So, then, whose terror-filled lives are we gamely facilitating, anyway?

Predictably, U.S. President Barack Obama praises with one fork of his tongue the “patriots” in his intelligence community to whom, he insists, his nation “owes a profound debt of gratitude,” and with the other fork abjures: “What is clear is that the CIA set up something very fast without a lot of forethought to what the ramifications might be. . .Some of these techniques that were described were not only wrong, but also counterproductive because we know that oftentimes when somebody is being subjected to these kinds of techniques, that they are willing to say anything to alleviate the pain.”

Spoken like a true technocrat.

Shall we willingly forget that treating people in this way makes monsters of us all? Shall we ignore the slippery slope that delivers our righteous ambitions into the pit of our barbarity?

What price do we, in our comfortable lives, pay when we manifest surprise at the depth of our own depravity?

Not my business, we say.

Sorry, fellow animal; but, again, nothing could be further from the truth.

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