Tag Archives: torture

What’s another weasel word for ‘waterboarding’?

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Oh, Dick Cheney; God, love you, man.

At least, you’d better hope the Almighty has a soft spot in his eternal, cosmic heart for ilk such as yours.

Down here, on planet Earth, we mortals wrote you off at about the time you insisted that forcibly pouring water down someone’s throat to the point of nearly asphyxiating him was not torture.

Indeed, you sly dog, you casually observed it was merely an “enhanced interrogation technique.” Why, it happens all the time. Right? Move along people; nothing to see here.

Earlier this week, the former vice president of the United States in the George W. Bush administrations of 2000-04 and 2004-08 (the world’s very own, live-action Darth Vader-Emperor Palpatine dynamic duo of the early 21st century) was at it again, defending, on major news programs in the United States, the indefensible.

Lending a hand to congressional Republicans in a co-ordinated attack on a scathing report by Senate Democrats on the CIA’s predilection for torturing people it suspected of being terrorists in the years following the 9/11 attacks on lower Manhattan and Washington, D.C., Cheney declared, “I would do it again in a minute.”

Naturally, he denied that what American intelligence officials were authorized to do to its detainees and prisoners constituted anything like torture, a claim that is almost as risible as his own definition: “Torture is what the al-Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11. There is no comparison between that and what we did with respect to enhanced interrogation techniques.”

There they are again, three of the ugliest weasel words of the modern age: enhanced interrogation techniques. The intelligence community, ever up for a twisted joke, actually slaps an acronym on them (EITs) as if to further distance the practices to which they refer from what regular folks generally understand to be torture

According to information contained in a 2005 Justice Department memo, obtained by The Associated Press last week, “EITs” included: abdominal slaps, attention grasps, cramped confinement, dietary manipulation, facial holds, facial slaps, insult slaps, forced nudity, stress positions, sleep deprivation, wall standing, wall slamming, water dousing and, of course, everybody’s favorite, waterboarding.”

None of which gave Cheney pause to reflect when he was in office; it still doesn’t.

During one news program on which he appeared, he seemed genuinely unfazed by a section of the Senate report which described the mistaken identity of a man who subsequently died at the hands of his interrogators:

“The problem I had is with the folks that we did release that end(ed) up back on the battlefield,” he said.

When pressed about findings indicating that as many as 25 per cent of those who were detained were innocent, he said, “I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent. . .I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States.”

And how did that work out for him?

According to the current director of the CIA, EITs didn’t actually get the job done as Cheney and his pals like to claim. At a press conference convened at the Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, last week, John Brennan stated: “Our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives.”

“But,” he said (and it’s a mighty big but), “let me be  clear. . .We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees.”

In other words, “the cause-and-effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainees is, in my view, unknowable.”

In fact, The Stars and Stripes’ Jon Harper reported this week “More than a decade (ago). . .the U.S. military’s top lawyers were warning that ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were legally questionable, likely ineffectual and could expose American troops to criminal prosecution and torture at the hands of their own captors,”

So, then, the CIA’s EITs quite probably violated several specific human rights and, what’s more, they didn’t work.

Would it, I wonder, torture the world’s news media to turn their collective back the next time Dick Cheney comes running for an interview?

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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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