America Used Torture, And It Was Popular

April 22, 2009

I’ve been dying to say something about this. So it turns out that the United States has been torturing the shit out of people (not a big surprise, but the memos detailing and trying to provide legal cover for the practices are shocking). The CIA used a program called SERE to train US soldiers and spies to withstand torture. The program was begun in the 1950s and mimicked practices used by our Communist adversaries. We never used such torture techniques on others, and nobody in the US was trained to do so. But the Bush administration took these techniques – i.e., adopted practices used by the Nazis, Soviets, etc. – and used them against our prisoners. There’s no public evidence that use of these techniques yielding useful intelligence. But that’s besides the point. The techniques were never really used to get the kind of information the administration and its supporters always talked about – the famous ticking-time-bomb scenario in which a terrorist attack is imminent and a prisoner has information that can stop it. The techniques were used on a daily basis over long periods of time on many, many prisoners. Many died. Many were driven insane. All suffered horrifically. And they were all unquestionably illegal.

Yet here’s what Peggy Noonan had to say about all this:

“It’s hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, ‘Oh, much good will come of that.’ Sometimes in life you want to keep walking… Some of life has to be mysterious.”

So she makes no attempt to justify what’s been done. Her argument is that we’d be better off not knowing anything about it.

There was a time, eight years ago, when I did not believe that Nazis could come to power in the United States. That Americans would simply not tolerate anti-constitutional behavior such as torture, imprisonment without legal due process, spying on citizens, wars fought under false pretenses. Honest to God, I DID NOT BELIEVE IT.

Now I believe that under the right circumstances, it could happen here.

Make no mistake – the release of these memos and all of their disclosures are not nearly enough to convince everybody of the significance of what happened.


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