Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the U.S. tortured people after 9/11. In this respect the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence come as no surprise. The degree of brutality revealed by the report, however, goes beyond what might have been imagined even by some of us who feel ourselves without illusion about U.S. actions of the past thirteen years.
Attempts to neuter the debate by employment of the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” and its bureaucratic acronym “EITs” are nothing short of vile. Colonel W. Patrick Lang, retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces, writes in Sic Semper Tyrannis about being subjected to waterboarding and other techniques in the 1960s during a training exercise whose purpose was to teach special operations forces how to resist and endure torture. I quote at length while recommending the entire post. It is compelling reading.
…at the end of the course, we were all seized and put in a “practise” PW camp where we were held naked for days without shelter during the monsoon, subjected to many of the “techniques” described in the senate report and then at the end, waterboarded. I am here to tell you that anyone who thinks waterboarding is not torture has not been waterboarded. I thought then and think now that the psychologists and air force people who ran the camp were dangerous sadists. (As I thought, SERE was the start point, 10 December 2014. )
Proponents of the CIA program want to turn the discussion from moral and ethical considerations to pragmatic issues of effectiveness. They are particularly fond of the “ticking time bomb” scenario to defend, and indeed endorse, interrogation by any means deemed necessary, without limitation. Many who can speak more authoritatively on the subject than I, including Colonel Lang, do not buy the effectiveness argument. As for the “ticking time bomb,” CIA personnel tortured detainees over extended periods of time without garnering any useful information or, apparently, wondering if perhaps that time bomb must be ticking pretty damn slowly.
One CIA interrogator at COBALT reported that “‘literally, a detainee could go for days or weeks without anyone looking at him’, and that his team found one detainee who ‘as far as we could determine’, had been chained to a wall in a standing position for 17 days’.” (Rushe, McCaskill, et al., The Guardian, 11 December 2014)
The “ticking time bomb” justification was for the most part a hollow rationale for acts that even the program’s defenders agree are abhorrent—with the qualification “for the most part” perhaps giving more benefit of the doubt than is warranted.
In closing I turn again to Colonel Lang, and again take the liberty to quote at length:
The CIA and its Corps of Tormentors disgraced and soiled the United States as did the US Army at Abu Ghraib. Insufficient punishment was meted out to the senior army culprits at Abu Ghraib, but now there is a chance to make an example of the monstrous fools who motivated, directed and executed this renewal of the Inquisition. It should be mentioned that Cheney and Rumsfeld played a direct role in encouraging US Army intelligence to torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
The Obama Justice Department should reverse its stated position and re-open investigations that may lead to the indictment of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rodriguez, and all those who participated in this criminal violation of US and international law. For the president and Holder to fail to do this would make them be in violation of their oaths of office. (The US must purge itself,11 December 2014.
Colonel W. Patrick Lang, As I thought, SERE was the start point, Sic Semper Tyrannis, 10 December 2014.
Colonel W. Patrick Lang, The US must purge itself, Sic Semper Tyrannis, 11 December 2014.
Dominic Rushe, Ewen MacAskill, Ian Cobain , Alan Yuhas and Oliver Laughland, Rectal rehydration and waterboarding: the CIA torture report’s grisliest findings, The Guardian, 11 December 2014.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, published in The Guardian, 9 December 2014. [memo from the editorial desk: I have only skimmed the introductory pages thus far.]
Kaveh Waddell, The Long, Brutal Interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, The National Journal, 9 December 2014.