The Politics of Fear Caused Us to Torture. Will the Release of the Senate Torture Report Prevent It From Happening Again?

Before the Senate torture report was released, a number Republicans and CIA representatives and supporters made the rounds of the cable networks trying to prevent it from being disseminated. They warned the release of report would stir up terrorists who would execute attacks in retaliation for what was done to their comrades. Of course it’s not like those guys who call us the “Great Satan” and have sworn to attack us however and whenever they can need another excuse.

When the nearly 600 page summary of the report was released, it became obvious why the CIA tried so hard to prevent it from ever seeing the light of day. The report, which is based on millions of CIA documents, messages, emails, etc. illustrates that the so called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used on prisoners were far more brutal than the CIA has clamed and that they often went far beyond the guidelines that the lawyers in the Bush Justice Department had authorized as “legal”. It also proved that the CIA withheld information from the Bush White House and Congress as to the extent and brutality of the interrogations. The report also illustrated that the information extracted from those tortured was often deceptive and that any useful information extracted by the techniques could have be obtained by traditional interrogation methods.

It was interesting that once the report was released, the CIA and Republican opponents of releasing the report changed their arguments from “releasing the report will make us less safe” to new story lines ranging from “the report is a political smear job”, to “it is incomplete and misleading”, to “it just flat wrong”. However, the final vote of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to release the report was 11-3. Since the committee consists of eight Democrats and seven Republicans, if you do the math you come to the conclusion that at least 3 Republicans voted to release the report’s summary. If the report is blatantly partition, why would three Republicans on the committee vote to release it and why would John McCain, who was tortured himself as a prisoner of war, give an impassioned speech supporting its release.

I have heard Republicans and CIA representatives state that the report’s finding that no useful intelligence was gained by torturing prisoners is absolutely incorrect. They claim that they are aware of classified information which proves that terrorist attacks were foiled and lives were saved because enhanced interrogation techniques were used. Well fine, over ten years have gone by, plenty of time for the information to loose any intelligence value, so let the CIA declassify that information so we can judge for ourselves.  However, even if useful information was obtained, that doesn’t justify torture.

I have also heard Republicans defend the interrogation techniques by saying that no one was really hurt and no lasting damage was done to the prisoners. In other words, it wasn’t really torture. Well, if you believe that anything less than branding a person with a hot iron, pulling his finger nails, etc, is not torture, then I invite you to click on this link which contains some of the most horrific examples of the enhanced interrogation techniques which were used. However, I must warn you, if you don’t have a strong stomach, you may find the descriptions too graphic for your tastes.  Huffington Post – Senate Torture Report Details

Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Intelligence Committee stated that the primary reason for releasing the report is to supply the truth to the American people of what we did when we were afraid so we will never let it happen again. Hopefully that will be the result of releasing the report. The lesson to be learned is that just because we are in a dangerous situation does not justify abandoning our values to obtain an additional measure of safety. Abandoning our values in dangerous times make us cowards and lessen our value in the eyes others in the world. If we feel we have to reduce ourselves to the level of our most heinous enemies in order to make sure we sleep a little safer in our beds, what we would gain is far outweighed by what we would lose. We would betray with our cowardly acts the memories of our brave forefathers who risked so much and all of those who have died since defending our country and our way of life.

However, there are those among us have learned no lessons from these disgraceful incidents and insist that we were right to torture prisoners. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the biggest champions of enhanced interrogation techniques, stated yesterday, “I would do it again in a minute”. It appears that if we never again want torture to stain the very fabric of who we are as Americans, we have to ensure that no one like Dick Chaney again serves in one of our country’s leadership positions.

Cajun   12/11/14

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