While he made initial attempts to close the U.S. concentration camp at Guantanamo and other notorious CIA ”black site” detention and torture facilities around the globe, by now President Barack Obama has pretty much preserved Cheney-Bush administration torture policies. The only thing he has done is weave some legal sleight-of-hand to provide an illusion of distance between what we order and the brutality that occurs.
When it comes to torture, Obama is Dick Cheney … with better PR. Obama’s sunny smile has replaced Cheney’s Dr. Evil scowl.
While American military and contract mercenary operatives are less likely to be the ones doing the actual water-boarding, hands-on wall slamming or other forms of violent torture, the United States continues to hand prisoners over to allies happy to do the vile work while offering the delusion that our hands are clean.
This official Jack Bauer scripted nightmare continues despite clear evidence that torture and brutality do not work. Not only does it not yield accurate information it does nothing to win over occupied populations and, in fact, becomes a powerful recruiting tool for the very terrorist movements we say we are trying to root out.
If you doubt this, imagine for a moment how you would react if you were to learn your son had been tortured by being stripped naked and forced into a stress posture in a heated cell for days, or your father water boarded or your sister gang-raped by the foreign military force occupying your land. Would you settle back to toss flowers and candies at occupying troops? Of course not. At the very least you would do nothing to help and many would actively take up arms — from rocks to AK-47s and shoulder launched missiles - to avenge the brutality of the invading force.
As hard as it is to admit what is going on in our name — funded by our tax dollars — ignorance provides no moral cover; we are all responsible. Like some raving mad Shakespearean character, the blood of the torture victim permanently stains our hands.
Nothing is as corrosive to a nation’s psyche and soul as officially sanctioned torture. Unless there has been investigation and prosecution of the torturers and their masters in nations where torture has been an instrument of government the poison seeps deeply into the twisted bones of the state and the soul of a society — as it is now doing in the United States.
Despite the institutionalization of official torture, most Americans cheerily delude themselves into thinking we would never torture; that we are somehow better; buying the ”moral beacon of freedom and democracy” hype. The truth is as shameful and bitter as it is destructive to our national character. As hard as it is to admit what is going on in our name — funded by our tax dollars — ignorance provides no moral cover; we are all responsible. Like some raving mad Shakespearean character, the blood of the torture victim permanently stains our hands.
For a powerful history of America’s journey through the darkness of power the link below will take you to an informative interview with University of Wisconsin historian Alfred W. McCoy, who has studied and written on torture around the world for several decades. His 2006 book “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror” traces American torture policies from CIA research in the 1950′s up to the occupation of Iraq.
One thing about the interview that is both humorous and reflective of the difficulty Americans have of even finding a way to talk about this issue is how one of the interviewers, Wisconsin Public Radio’s normally erudite Norman Gilliland, constantly, hedges and tempers his words, using the official euphemism “enhanced interrogation” or wording like ”whatever you call it” to avoid calling what we do what it is: torture. If we can’t even utter the problem there is no chance of fixing it. Nonetheless, a powerful piece of radio journalism.
55-Minute Audio: http://wpr.org/uoa/