12.10.2014 09:05 AM

“A portrait of depravity”

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From the New York Times lead editorial this morning:

The world has long known that the United States government illegally detained and tortured prisoners after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and lied about it to Congress and the world. But the summary of a report released Tuesday of the Senate investigation of these operations, even after being sanitized by the Central Intelligence Agency itself, is a portrait of depravity that is hard to comprehend and even harder to stomach.

Largely left unaddressed in the news coverage, this morning, is this question: were the so-called “black sites” – about which George W. Bush refused to be briefed, and on which the Canadian government remains reliantthe places where ISIS/ISIL was created? Did they give rise to the very thing they purportedly were seeking to prevent?

Like New York Democrat Jerrold said: “Torture fails to make us safe. But it certainly makes us less free.”

19 Comments

  1. Peter says:

    Did they give rise to the very thing they purportedly were seeking to prevent?

    Probably not, but you don’t need to argue that and there are dangers if you do. Torture corrupts us immeasurably whether it “works” or not.

    • MississaugaPeter says:

      That’s right.

      If someone invaded Canada under false pretenses, which left over 100,000 Canadians dead, upwards of 500,000 injured, and pulled an Abu Ghraib, Canadians would break the internet trying to download as quickly as possible Doris Day’s Que Sera Sera.

      That’s right.

      No such thing as cause and effect.

      • Peter says:

        And you think in such circumstances Canadians would indulge in mass rape and murder of their fellow Canadians and behead people on YouTube? Careful, MississaugaPeter, suggestions of racism and ethnocentrism are just around the corner.

        • MississaugaPeter says:

          There is a difference between agreeing with or justifying barbaric behaviour with an understanding of “cause and effect”.

          In the cited example, I would not condone the behaviour of the Canadians who behaved like barbarians. However, I would be able to see how the invader’s actions precipitated the vengeful actions of the Canadian-barbarians.

          What the beheading psychopaths are doing will lead them to eternal damnation, but to believe that they became that way “out of the blue” is erroneous.

          • Peter says:

            OK, let’s argue seriously. I have no trouble with the argument that the war and similar interventions led and can lead to political turmoil and civil strife. Indeed, that’s the most damning criticism of the Iraq war–if you depose a tyrant, you had better think about what will replace him. However, I have a great deal of trouble with the common progressive trope that the West “drives” non-Westerners to barbarism with these kinds of interventions and somehow makes them, if not defensible, at least understandable. This isn’t new, the old, popular movie The Deer Hunter somehow connected Pol Pot’s genocide with American bombing of Cambodia and we all applauded. What’s a poor rural guerilla supposed to do, etc.?

            People who make this argument seem never to make it about Westerners, which is why the racism charge is not unfair. Who would seriously argue that 9/11 justified American torture? I don’t recall seeing a movie about how the Nazis drove Jews to blow up a teen dance or rape some Germans, and I don’t think it would work. Another illustration is Israel-Palestine. Nobody, not even Israel, argues that Palestinian murders of Israeli civilians gives Israel either a moral or legal pass on international law or in anyway justifies atrocities, but many seem to view Palestinian atrocities against civilians as understandable. Cause and effect, as you say.

            Given the norms of treatments meted out to political dissidents in the Middle East by militaries and security services, I don’t accept that things like waterboarding and rectal rehydration drove ISIS and its supporters to such paroxysms of rage that it “caused” ISIS outrages in any meaningful sense. The hard truth is that they didn’t need the Americans to lead them down that path. They got there on their own. This is about us and who we see when we look in a mirror.

          • doconnor says:

            “I don’t recall seeing a movie about how the Nazis drove Jews to blow up a teen dance or rape some Germans”

            There is Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds where they scalp Germans and blow up a movie theater.

            The interventions lead to instability and poverty which causes people who would be petty bullies under different circumstances to be viewed as viable and powerful leaders.

          • MississaugaPeter says:

            Disenfranchised people all over the world behave differently. Many internalize. Some become alcoholics and turn to drugs for relief.

            My point is, people born into a perpetual system of despair and fear (Iraq under the psychopath Saddam Hussein) followed by occupation and death and murder around them for a decade (NATO forces and Al Qaeda plus the hatred between Shiites and Sunnis), will result in some otherwise sane people becoming barbarians.

            I agree that Abu Ghraib or CIA torture was not the sole reason for the rise of the Desert Barbarians. But it did not help. Also …

            Beheadings in that end of the world are not as frequent as the guillotine was during the French Revolution, but there were 26 in August and 59 for the year in Saudi Arabia, including one for “sorcery” (actually the third for “sorcery” since 2011).

            http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/20/us-saudi-execution-idUSKCN0I91G220141020

            “Defenders of the Saudi death penalty say beheadings, usually with a single sword stroke, are at least as humane as lethal injections in the United States.”

            For the record, I am against all death penalties, no matter how grave the behaviour.

  2. Lance says:

    I wonder how much the American (and Canadians as well) people really care about this issue when in the eyes of so many, these are merely terrorists and that “meh, who gives a fuck about a bunch of terrorists that would do worse to us if they could”, is their prevailing attitude. This torture is wrong on so many levels, but I truly think that when push comes to shove and in the end, people just won’t give a shit.

    • smelter rat says:

      Absolutely correct. Despite that fact that many of the people tortured were totally innocent of any wrongdoing, the one common denominator is that they were all brown.

  3. West Coast Jim says:

    This episode sadly represents the Bush Presidency. No moral core and nothing achieved other than to blacken the reputation of the U.S. “Mission Accomplished”.

    • MississaugaPeter says:

      That’s right.

      The CIA started torturing folks on January 20, 2001, and stopped on January 20, 2009.

      • West Coast jim says:

        Christ MississssaugaPeter

        Is there no right wing wing-nut that you will not be the apologist for? If you truly believe that George W.’s rash policies did not do deep damage to the reputation of America in every corner of the world I need to know what the Hell you are smoking ’cause that must be awesome stuff.

        • MississaugaPeter says:

          No apologies for Bush at all. The guy should be at The Hague in shackles.

          But to think that Bush was the first or last president under which torture occurred is wrong.

          Right after Obama became president, he signed: Executive Order 13492 – Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities

          http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=85670

          Six years later, Guantánamo Bay is still open.

          West Coast Jim, I only seek to draw attention that Bush was not the first, or last, immoral POTUS who will rightly rot in hell.

          I am a pacifist. I do not defend any warmonger.

    • socks clinton says:

      And the Liberal government of that time didn’t raise any objections when Maher Arar was spirited off to Syria to be tortured or when Omar Khadr was detained in Gutamano Bay when by UN conventions he’s only a child soldier.

  4. smelter rat says:

    It’s pretty easy to connect the dots now. As Pogo famously said, “I have seen the enemy, and it is us”.

  5. Richard says:

    The entirety of the program, from its conception to its practice to its white-washing by some members of the media and government, is a vile stain. At a time when the US was out to promote the values and virtues of liberal democracy, that this could be happening was a cruel and unusual anachronism. When the state sanctions this type of behaviour, it undermines its own values and eats away at its own moral standing. And for the propaganda machines of al-Qaeda and their successors, it is exactly the behaviour that they will promote as emblematic of America and its allies.

  6. Scotian says:

    What always infuriated me about the post 9/11/01 turn-around about torture by the US and other western nations (yes, I’m looking at you UK) was not just the morality issue but that it had been known for decades through much repeated study that if you want consistent effective intelligence torture is the LAST thing to be using! The biggest problem in defending it is not the morality issue (which is no small point of course) but the usefulness/practicality of it. Some of us paid attention to things like intelligence issues for decades prior to the 9/11/01 attacks and this was something well known in both black and white circles. The ONLY rationale for what happened post 9/1/01 was punitive revenge motivations and/or ignorance about the truth about torture. The ticking clock scenario may make great material for things like 24, but in the real world it is almost a certainty that whatever you got would accelerate setting of that bomb, not stopping it, and that is if you got anything that actually related to the ticking bomb itself.

    The morality of this is also not a small factor, not because I believe in “hug-a-thug”, or playing nice with brutal terrorists, but because I believe that you cannot claim superior morality/ethics unless you know you actually PRACTICE them, ESPECIALLY when it counts! Not to mention the well known truth that torture is soul destroying for the torturer as well as the tortured, and that applies as much at the state as it does at the individual level. So because of that kind of damage there can be no excuse for it on moral grounds, and even on practical grounds it would be difficult to justify even if it produced reliable results, which of course it does not, which makes it truly indefensible on any practical/reasonable ground. The only understandable reason for torture is the infliction of punishment, degradation, and such, which is not a defence for it, but it is the only rationale for torture that actually has any truth to it.

    Now, lest we Canadians decide to feel superior on this, we have our own contributions to this problem, most notably by our current government regarding the turning over of Afghan detainees to potential torture, you know, the actual issue that the Harper government earned history for by becoming the first Westministerian Parliamentary government to ever be held in contempt of Parliament over? To this day those documents remain under the cone of silence which is the Harper government, and while they are not directly referenced in the US report, the fact that we now know just how pervasive this torture issue was within the CIA, it makes it that much more credible that we Canadians are complicit in torture and such crimes against humanity where the Afghan detainees are concerned.

    As to the point Kinsella is making about these sites and what went on there being a breeding ground for what we know know as ISIS/ISIL, who can say, but what is clear to anyone not blinded by ideology, partisanship, or something even less pretty, is that torture does nothing to produce long term safety and everything to do with creating long term risk/danger. We know violence tends to breed violence and hatred leads to more hatred. Torture is one of those no win everyone loses realities, and therefore on multiple grounds from the moral/ethical to the practical and security protection it is a complete fail, a completely counter productive process, and something no sensible as well as civilized person should ever embrace. It does nothing to serve but the darkest and basest aspects of the human condition, it has no redeeming qualities in real life, and there can be no argument to justify it when held up to hard scrutiny.

    This has nothing to do with whether one is a progressive or a conservative, and everything to do with whether you are a ethical principled human being, or even a person that places practical results before all else, because this is an issue where on both moral and practical grounds there can be no defence for support. Watching the defenders of the CIA and the GOPers placing their partisanship ahead of these truths/realities, well it only further blackens those doing so in the eyes of both man and any God that said people claim to believe exists. There are times like these where I find myself hoping their God exists, because the judgment waiting for them for this support is richly deserved IMHO. Torture is never defensible IMHO, period end F’ing dot!

    Sorry, but this is one of the few truly black and white issues out there, and I find it very hard to understand people who see this as more gray than that. We know from actual decades of experience that bonding, good treatment, and not using torture gets you consistent solid reliable intelligence. So if you really care first for getting quality intel, then you have to oppose torture, it really is that simple.

  7. Liam Young says:

    So there’s torture, and then there’s endless, relentless bombing of innocent people in Syria and Iraq. Because, well, we feel like it.
    How is Canada any different in terms of war crimes compared to the evil cabal of Bush, Cheney et al of the 1990s? We’re committing the same crimes.
    When do we prosecute the whole lot?
    And as taxpayers, when do we get a refund for the hundreds of billions being wasted on the defense industry that’s grown around these lies?

    And, oh yeah … I TOLD YOU SO!

    Now, can we have that investigation of 9/11, G20 kettling and maybe open the door a little further on Bibeau? Or am I pushing my ‘luck’?

  8. smelter rat says:

    Canada and the USA are among many signatories to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
    Article 8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
    Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

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