How many people are “surprised” and “shocked” by the findings of a U.S. Senate committee report on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”? Probably no one, between those who already suspected the worst, and those fanatics who still steadfastly justify them. It is only when the facts, backed by direct testimony and classified documents and stamped with the official seal for posterity, does it become a “problem”—especially for Republicans on the committee who walked out because they couldn’t face the truth.
Now, countries who have done far worse can claim both justification for their own policies, and at the same time are provided with the opportunity to claim the “moral high ground” over the U.S. Of course this is rank hypocrisy, given the past of countries like Germany, China and Russia, and the continuing slaughter of innocent civilians in a few countries in the Middle East.
One thing that can be said, however, is that the U.S. may have made things far worse at the cost of thousands of American lives with its interventions (including Libya) than had they allowed these countries to sort themselves on their own; after all, as Gandhi told the British, India had problems—but they were their problems.
Some of the Senate reports’ list of torture techniques seem more of an annoyance to the detainee. For example, the abdominal “slap” is little more than that, the “dietary manipulation” is changing a solid food diet to a liquid one, and “wall standing”—in which the detainee faces a wall and touches it with his fingertips for an extended period. Other “torture” techniques are intended to humiliate the detainee—such as standing nude, the “facial slap,” and the “attention grasp,” which the interrogator grabs the detainee by the collar.
Others were, of course, intended to cause physical discomfort or pain: “Stress positions,” sometimes used in combination with “sleep deprivation,” “walling”—meaning slamming a detainee against a concrete wall—and of course “waterboarding,” where the detainee is strapped down on a flat surface and has water pored over his face to “simulate” drowning. Several high-level detainees were waterboarded, to no apparent usefulness, other than someone enjoying the practice of sadism.
The Senate report also claimed that in no case was useful information garnered from tortured detainees; either the information was false—or merely “confirmed” information that had been gained through non-coerced information from other detainees. This included information in regard to Osama bin Laden.
"A review of CIA records found that the initial intelligence obtained, as well as the information the CIA identified as the most critical or the most valuable on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, was not related to the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques.” In fact, U.S. intelligence knew everything about al-Kuwaiti and his connection to bin Laden in 2002—the latter was in fact to be found hiding out in al-Kuwaiti’s own home in Pakistan at the time of his elimination—before the information they claimed to have acquired through their “enhanced” interrogations. In example after example, from the so-called Karachi Plots to the Heathrow Airport Plot, the Senate report debunked CIA claims that they had thwarted, through torture of high level detainees, imminent terrorist attacks.
The one instance where I thought the Senate report fell short was on the Jose Padilla case. Although the report noted that the FBI and CIA concluded that Padilla’s alleged “terror plot” was never feasible, it failed to examine the months of torture used on an American citizen in American prisons, and the years that Padilla was held in custody without charge because prosecutors had no evidence to sustain the original charge against him, and the fact the Bush administration—forced by the U.S. Supreme Court to either charge Padilla with a crime or release him—essentially invented one based on “circumstantial” evidence. Padilla was eventually convicted by a jury that only saw a man reduced, as one observer noted, to “a piece of furniture” who regarded his own lawyers as part of the “interrogation” squad.
Not at all surprisingly, the chief Bush administration thug, former vice president Dick Cheney, had the audacity to show his snarling face on television news programs, asserting that he felt no “remorse” about the torture. In fact, Cheney boldly announced that “I'd do it again in a minute…torture to me…is an American making a phone call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death.” I’m not familiar with that particular incident if Cheney did not invent it whole cloth, but one thing is for certain: he is probably is not referring to the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians burned to death or blown to smithereens during American bombing raids during the “war.” I doubt he is also referring to the more than 4,000 American lives lost in Iraq and thousands more maimed for what we can conjecture was for no reason at all—in fact the region is more dangerous to U.S. interests than ever before.
And it was all based on lies—whether from the Bush administration or the CIA.