Dick Cheney and The Torture Report

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Just in time for the holidays, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee released the 525-page executive summary of the 6,000 page US Senate Report on CIA Detention Interrogation Program also known as the Torture Report.

Torture Report
US Senate Report on CIA Detention Interrogation Program, also known as the Torture Report.

After 9/11, this country was absolutely traumatized. We had never experienced terrorism first-hand in our own backyard and our reaction was righteous fury. We wanted to get the bastards who murdered almost 3,000 people. As a nation united, we agreed to do everything in our power to squash these monsters like bugs.

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Well, almost anything. Dick Cheney took over the White House and all decision-making. Finally, he didn’t have to pretend: He was the shadow President no more. What he said, Bush did; what he wanted, Bush delivered. And what Cheney wanted was to torture the shit out of anyone who might have even a passing familiarity with al Qaeda. So he called in the CIA and introduced the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Well, Cheney probably didn’t introduce it, but I can see him rubbing his hands together, beady eyes glistening with anticipation, mumbling to himself with undisguised glee, “interrogation, not torture.”

Who would have thought this gleaming city on a hill would become the neighborhood bully?

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Now our brutish actions have finally come to light. The full account of the Bush administration’s torture program is out and cannot be ignored. The accounts are stunning in their abject brutality, committed by incompetent amateurs. What has come to light are the findings that the most senior members of the Bush administration gave the OK to violate international laws which ban torture including cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by detainees and POWs.

According to Politifact, “Among other things ‘prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever’ by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention are ‘violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture,’ as well as “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

The most cowardly aspect is how the CIA and the Bush administration had subordinates in the military and in civilian intelligence services break these laws for them. Why would Cheney leave the comfort of Washington when he could get updates on the phone? How easy to say he had no actual first person knowledge of any torture if and when he was asked.

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Remember Private Lynndie England?

Remember Abu Ghraib? That seemed like a one-time thing, a moment of alarming cruelty perpetrated by low-level army personnel. Now, it does not seem like a one-time occurrence. Now it looks like they were doing what they were told. They were following orders. A disturbing find in this report was the fact that much of the torture, I will not call it enhanced interrogation techniques, was done by unqualified and unfit personnel.

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According to the report, pages 9-10 : “The CIA placed individuals with no applicable experience or training in senior detention and interrogation roles, and provided inadequate linguistic and analytical support to conduct effective questioning of CIA detainees, resulting in diminished intelligence. The lack of CIA personnel available to question detainees, which the CIA inspector general referred to as ‘an ongoing problem, persisted throughout the program.'”

Shockingly, when these abuses came to the attention of the CIA officers who were overseeing these interrogations, not a single person was held accountable. From page 497 of the report: “Gul Rahman was shackled to the wall of his cell in a short chain position, which required him to sit on the bare concrete. Rahman was wearing a sweatshirt, but was nude from the waist down. On November 2002, the guards at Detention Site Cobalt found Gul Rahman’s dead body. Although a CIA employee tried to perform CPR, Gul Rahman remained unresponsive and was declared dead. An autopsy report by the CIA found that the cause of Gul Rahman’s death was ‘undetermined,’ but that the clinical impression of the medical officer who conducted the autopsy was that the cause of death was hypothermia.”

According to the UK Telegraph, the CIA carelessly put junior officer with “no relevant experience” in charge of the Salt Pit and after the death of Gul was not reprimanded or transferred but awarded a $2,500 cash bonus for his “consistently superior work.”

Torture at Abu Ghriab
Torture at Abu Ghriab

These enhanced interrogation techniques did not work. In fact, the infamous Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) was tortured and subject to nudity, sleep deprivation, rectal rehydration and hundreds of hours of waterboarding. The effect of this torture was the capture of two innocent men. From page 83: “On March 6, 2003, (redacted) adopted a ‘softer Mr. Rogers’ persona’ after the interrogation team concluded that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques had caused KSM to clam up. During this session KSM was described as ‘more cooperative,’ and the day’s interrogation was deemed the ‘best session held to date’ by the interrogation team. During this period KSM fabricated information on an individual whom he described as the protector of his children. That information resulted in the capture and CIA detention of two innocent individuals.”

Imagine that! After prolonged torture KSM finally gets a nice interrogator and spills…nothing. In fact, in the summary, the Committee agrees that the torture does not produce one shred of useable information.

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If you have not read the report yet, here are some of the enterprising ways to gain bad information:

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  • Rectal Rehydration
  • Rectal exams for no medical purpose
  • Anal Rape
  • Threats to rape and murder family members
  • Death
  • Threatened with death
  • Forced standing on broken feet
  • Prisoners were told that they would be killed.
  • Threatened with a gun and power drill and Russian Roulette
  • Mock Executions
  • Cheney’s favorite game, Waterboarding
  • Severe Sleep Deprivation (up to 180 hours)
  • Placed in a box the size of a coffin for over 11 days
  • Placed for 29 hours in a box 21 inches (53 cm) wide, 2.5 feet (76 cm) deep and 2.5 feet (76 cm) high.
  • Standing with hands over head for 2 1/2 days

I have heard the argument that this is a necessary evil in order to gain intelligence to keep our homeland safe from another attach. Bullshit. There is no credible evidence that proves torture works. As Newsweek writes, “The use of such techniques appears motivated by a folk psychology that is demonstrably incorrect. Solid scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions (such as planning or forming intentions) suggests these techniques are unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of that intended by coercive or ‘enhanced’ interrogation.”

The report details detainees fabricating information because they were human and in pain. I bet if I put Cheney in standing mode on his newly broken foot with his hands overhead for, oh let’s say two days, he would tell me anything I asked. He might even tell me he voted for President Obama twice!

But facts do not matter to a pathological liar like Cheney. “I would do it again in a minute,” he said during Meet The Press last Sunday. He denies any of the acts investigated in the report are torture. Cheney insists that the CIA did the right thing even defending the act of shoving food and liquid up some Arabs ass insisting “I believe it was done for medical reasons.”

No Dick, it wasn’t. Are you too afraid to actually read the report? Or just too desperate to keep spinning your load of rectally infused hummus to care about the damage done to the reputation of the US.

The damage to our reputation as a beacon of hope and justice took a brutal beating and, like the detainees, the damage will take years to heal. Internationally we look like hypocrites of the highest order as The Xinhua News Agency points out:

The hegemony it has exercised, the inquisition by torture it has practiced, and the profound racial inequalities all point to the sheer hypocrisy of the United States as a defender of human rights…

The U.S. government loves to decorate itself as a vehement watchdog of human rights on the world stage. On too many occasions, U.S. troops, upholding their proud American flags, invaded countries which stood no chance against their cutting-edge weapons, just in order to shed ‘the light of civilization’ to every corner of the world.

I’m sorry Dick, you sadist. Torture may get you all hot and patriotic, but it is not who we are as a nation. The damage you have wrought our reputation with your insatiable need for violence against your perceived enemies will take thousands of acts of kindness to overcome. We are better when we don’t torture, when we are better than those nations who do. We are stronger when we as a nation can step up and say that torture is not carried out under any circumstance.