Bob Franken

Tortured Torture Policy

I can see why our intelligence officials were so opposed to the release of those memos. Without a doubt, they were embarrassed.

Not by the admissions that U.S interrogators tortured the prisoners, we knew that. If I were them, I’d be mortified that the public knew how pathetic the torture was.

No wonder there were so few redactions. What’s to redact? I mean, putting a major terrorist in a small box with insects? In most American cities that would be called apartment rentals. Maybe he thought the CIA agent was his landlord.

And how about what they called “Diet Manipulation”? Now that’s vile. The captives were forced to subsist on nothing but Ensure. I can see the new TV ads now for the “Torture Weight Loss Diet”.

There was nothing new here. News reports had already described just how far our shameful conduct had gone. This just makes it official – that is, if you believe that these documents describe the full extent of the abuse, which I do not. Nor am I willing to swallow that there was such a big ruckus within the administration over whether these should be released. If you do, then I have some land in Guantanamo to sell you.

It’s a great story to peddle when someone is trying to convince the media and public that these papers described anything approaching the most egregious techniques used by Americans on their detainees. By pretending this batch is all there is, the ACLU can claim its victory while the dirtiest secrets are still kept in the black darkness.

That’s not cynicism, but merely long experience dealing with national security officials from several administrations, who only pretend they believe in the public’s right to know.

Not that this tip of the iceberg isn’t despicable enough. Let’s be clear: Even this smidgen of visible nastiness is unworthy of a country that always used our propaganda to present the enemy as the torturer. It turns out that we were also willing to cross that line. It seems though that if we take these memos at face value, we weren’t all that good at being bad guys – not entirely comfortable. That’s probably a good thing.

It would explain the need to rationalize the behavior, using immoral lawyers to contrive amoral justifications. What’s most chilling about their handiwork is the cold, methodical language in their twisted analyses.

Among other things, these enablers dishonored the tradition of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Council. Oh hell, they dishonored Justice, their profession and the United States.

Are there other memos? Are there papers that support the more fierce unsavory conduct? Probably. We know there was plenty more to rationalize.

Were there any that covered the subcontractors? And what about the “rendition”, which is what spies like to call their outsourcing? If the wimpy torture tactics failed to deliver the desired results (whatever they were), the detainees would be packed up and sent off to countries that were in the brutality major leagues.

There are any number of them who could pick up where Americans left off in Gitmo, or Bahgram or Abu Ghraib. We’re talking about some of our friends on both sides of the Mideast divide, or countries ending in “stan” or “zhan”, who were only too happy to show how the pros did it.

But back to the “made in America” torture: What do we do about it? It seems that even though “I was just following orders” was never a valid war crimes defense, the Obama Administration is ready to accept it this time around, probably to avoid an insurrection of spy guys. No wonder they were cheering him like the CIA’s first rock star Monday.

They must have been appalled at Langley when the president seemed to back away and say a day later that prosecutions and investigations were possible within “…the parameters of various laws.” Call that a confusing clarification.

Of course, we still should consider how to deal with the higher-ups who gave the orders. Do they deserve to be brought to justice somehow? What about the lawyers who contrived legal justifications for misdeeds? Should they be disbarred? Should the one who was rewarded by being appointed an Appeals Court Judge be impeached?

What should we make of watching the President and his minions flip-flopping about whom should be accountable as well as who should investigate, and for that matter, whether.

Perhaps just as important, what do we do about those who are now trying to deceive us into believing they’ve bared the entire dark soul of the nation’s secret conduct? Shouldn’t they also be punished for thinking we’re so stupid?

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