Monday, December 17, 2007

Is There Anything We Won't Do?

Earlier this week, ex-CIA agent John Kiriakou confirmed what we already knew. The United States of America has waterboarded terrorism suspects. We have used a technique practiced during the Spanish Inquisition in an attempt to extract information from suspects who, one would logically reason, would say anything to stop the waterboarding, which makes you feel like you are drowning, unable to breath.

Kiriakou says that the decision to waterboard “was a policy decision that came down from the White House.” And, by the way, there is not one documented case of this technique actually saving even a single life.

But let’s assume that waterboarding does have the potential to save lives. Is that the criterion by which we judge our actions? If it is, then why not subject terrorism suspects to mock executions? That doesn’t cause organ failure --one of the standards the Bush administration uses to define when something is torture. The infamous Bybee memo, sent to then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, claimed that, to be torture,the physical pain caused by an interrogator must be"equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." So,why not pull out a suspect’s toenails? Why not tell a suspect that, unless he talks, you will hunt down,torture, and kill his family. That’s not torture—especially if the interrogator doesn’t actually intend to kill anyone (in order to qualify as torture under the Bush standards, the physical pain inflicted must have been the “specific intent” of the interrogator).

I know the Bush administration primly refuses to discuss specific interrogation tactics. But, by their logic, why wouldn’t it be ok to burn a suspect with lit cigarettes, or to hold a pillow over a suspect’s face until he reaches the brink of suffocation (again, no problem at all if the intent is not to kill, cause organ failure or impairment of bodily function). Why not dangle a suspect outside a window 10 stories above the ground? For a public accustomed to Jack Bauer, this would probably make sense—make the bastard talk if he knows something. Or, if we want to use another fictional work as our guide, why not send people to areal life version of George Orwell’s Room 101, where starving rats are let loose on the bound suspect. Again, not torture by the Bush administration’s standard, as long as you intend to stop the rats, eventually.

Why not take any of these actions? Ten years ago, one might have thought the conclusion Kiriakou ultimately reached was obvious. As he put it, “we’re Americans,and we’re better than this.” Somebody needs to get the Bush administration to understand this. Fear is not reason enough for these barbaric practices, this torture committed in our name.


Post a Comment

<< Home