Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Torture Report Time Machine

Based on what happened at Abu Ghraib, as well as the definitions of "extraordinary rendition" used by the Bush administration, I expected this week's torture report to be harrowing.  It ended up being even worse than I imagined, a catalog of crimes that ought to bring lasting shame on this country.  There has been outrage, but I wonder of its limits.  President Obama has been mum, and Secretary of State Kerry had tried to prevent its release.  Most Congressional Republicans opposed its release full stop, and Fox News has claimed its release was meant to distract from Obamacare.
Why haven't tales of people tortured due to mistaken identity moved the nation's conscience?  Why is there only limited disgust at rectal feeding and sleep deprivation techniques of the kind used by Stalin's secret police?  Why is there no outcry to have the criminals responsible for these enormities clapped in irons and made to bow to justice?  You could argue that torture, like practically everything else, has been turned into a partisan issue.  Perhaps, but that does not explain why the outrage is only limited to the left of center, and the large, soft American middle appears to be almost completely unmoved.  No, there is so little outrage because this is what most Americans secretly wanted to happen.

Let's take a trip back in time, shall we?  We live in a world where everything is forgotten, where all goes down the memory hole almost as soon as it is brought into existence.  I have made it one of my personal missions to remind people of the reality of American life in the period of hysteria that lasted roughly between 9/11 and the summer of 2005.  The 9/11 attacks provoked a kind of fearsome bloodlust in the American public, only abetted by the Bush/Cheney regime's desire to funnel that hate towards military action.  Muslim Americans were physically assaulted, and their mosques attacked.  Sikh men were murdered for the crime of wearing a turban.  In 2003, most Americans believed that Saddam Hussein had a hand in the 9/11 attacks.  They didn't just believe it because of propaganda, they believed it because they wanted revenge, and any group of Arab Muslims would do for that purpose.

If the vast majority of Americans were willing to smite Iraq with the hard hand of war, inevitably leading the the deaths of thousands of innocents, they hardly had any qualms about shoving food up the rectums of suspected terrorists.  They were the bad guys, after all, right?  Didn't torture work when Jack Bauer used it on 24?  You don't really want to risk letting the bad guys strike again, do you?  And so the CIA, at the behest of the highest authorities in the land, tortured and tortured and tortured.  There was a momentary shock after the revelations of Abu Ghraib, but voters returned Bush and Cheney to the White House nonetheless.  

It would be easy to limit the responsibility for the crime to Cheney/Bush, their henchmen, and the everyday jingoists who bayed for Muslim blood in the aftermath of 9/11.  However, they were enabled by a scared public willing to turn the other way while unspeakable cruelties were committed in their name.  While whistleblowers like Edward Snowden fear prosecution, those responsible for systematic torture walk free, not prosecuted by president Barack Obama.  And last of all, progressives like myself have been much too tolerant of the president's unwillingness to prosecute CIA men who probably earned promotions from their heinous acts.

I repeat: the revelations of the torture report should bring lasting shame on this country.  Perhaps more shamefully, our people have been shameless in ignoring it.  If there is any righteousness in this universe we will face a terrible reckoning.

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