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We Can Use Torture Because We’re Exceptionally Special

You remember the George W. Bush administration word play which turned “torture” into “enhanced interrogation.” Not that Bush was the first, or the last, to do such things, of course.

Two things happened yesterday, related to this. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the CIA’s rendition program employed “torture,” and the Senate Intelligence Committee voted, in a closed session, to approve a classified report related to “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

About the first, via Common Dreams, Beth Borgan writes: (emphasis added throughout post)

Historic Court Ruling: CIA’s Rendition Program Clear Case of ‘Torture’

… (T)he European Court of Human Rights court on Thursday found that the CIA’s extraordinary rendition and subsequent mistreatment of a German national in 2004 was clearly a case of ‘torture’ and breach of international law.

‘Today’s landmark decision is a stark reminder of America’s utter failure to hold its own officials accountable for serious violations of both U.S. and international law,’ said the ACLU. The court condemned the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s illegal transfer of Khaled El-Masri into CIA custody, which resulted in his being beaten, sodomized and otherwise tortured. …

This ruling is the “first time a European state has been held accountable for involvement in US rendition and torture programs.”

El-Masri was held for more than four months, in Afghanistan. He was eventually released, “not charged with any crimes.”

At TruthOut, Jason Leopold writes, Senate Intelligence Committee Takes Up ‘the Pentagon Papers of the CIA Torture Program.’

The Committee met in closed session, and voted in approval of

… a classified report, the product of its investigation into whether so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were effective and produced actionable results, and if they went beyond what the Department of Justice had authorized. …

One Intelligence Committee staff member told Truthout the resulting document could be characterized as ‘the Pentagon Papers of the CIA torture program.’ But the report will remain secret and it’s unclear if a declassified version ever will be released. …

The Washington, DC lawyer (Brent Mickum) represents Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, better known as Abu Zubaydah – a Guantanamo detainee the US government has claimed for more than a decade to be ‘one of the highest-ranking members of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization’ … .

Nonetheless, in an extraordinary court filing in March 2010, the Obama administration’s Justice Department quietly recanted virtually every major claim leveled by the Bush administration against Zubaydah.

Then-Justice Department attorney John Yoo drafted what came to be called the “torture memo,” which, Leopold writes, “was created specifically to authorize the CIA to torture Zubaydah.”

Among other things, waterboarding was employed, with some of the interrogation sessions

… videotaped and later destroyed, sparking a criminal investigation conducted by a special prosecutor that ended without any charges being filed. …

Zubaydah, who has been held in a section of Guantanamo reserved for detainees formerly in the custody of the CIA, drew pictures of the torture techniques he says he endured … .

Apparently, the committee has no intention of using any of the information it has collected – regardless of whether laws were broken – to urge the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation.

Yesterday also brought an interview by Eric Bailey with Noam Chomsky, via AlterNet, America, Moral Degenerate, in which they discuss

… America’s human rights record under President Obama, and the military intervention policies that have seen increased use during the Arab Spring.

Eric Bailey: … One of the few examples of cooperation between the Democratic and Republican parties over the last four years has been the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. This bill has given the United States military the power to arrest American citizens, indefinitely, without charge, trial, or any other form of due process of law and the Obama administration has and continues to fight a legal battle in federal court to prevent that law from being declared unconstitutional.

Obama authorized the assassination of three American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, admittedly all members of Al Qaeda — all without judicial review.

Additionally, the Guantanamo Bay prison remains open, the Patriot Act has been extended and the TSA has expanded at breakneck speeds. What is your take on America’s human rights record over the past four years and can you contrast Obama’s policies with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush?

Noam Chomsky: … There were some objections on mostly partisan grounds, but for the most part, (Democrats) supported (Bush) policies and it’s not surprising that they have continued to do so. In some respects Obama has gone even beyond Bush. The NDAA … was not initiated by Obama (when it passed Congress, he said he didn’t approve of it and wouldn’t implement it), but he nevertheless did sign it into law and did not veto it.

The “worst part of the NDAA,” Chomsky said, is that it codifies what had already become a “regular practice,” including “indefinite detention,” which he terms a “gross violation of fundamental human rights and civil law.”

(Chomsky) As for the killings, Obama has sharply increased the global assassination campaign. While it was initiated by Bush, it has expanded under Obama and it has included American citizens, again with bipartisan support and very little criticism … .

The question of due process actually did arise, since the US does have a constitution and it says that no person shall be deprived of their rights without due process of law … . The Obama Justice Department’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, explained that there was due process in these cases because they are discussed first at the Executive Branch.

I’ll quote that great constitutional authority, George W. Bush, in considering why the Executive Branch should be allowed such power: “I’m the decider.” More broadly, why should the U.S. be allowed such power? You know the answer: Because we’re “exceptional.”

(Statue of Liberty Imprisoned Via OWS News)

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4 Responses to We Can Use Torture Because We’re Exceptionally Special

  1. Cujo359 December 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    start quote:

    a classified report, the product of its investigation into whether so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were effective and produced actionable results, and if they went beyond what the Department of Justice had authorized

    end quote

    Apparently, there is no one in government anymore above the rank of GS-9 who remembers that it’s illegal to classify information to cover up a crime. That report shouldn’t be classified, or it should be released in an unclassified edition that has the sensitive information redacted. The abuse of the classification system is one of the things that has enabled these crimes, and it’s something that both conservatives and progressives should be against on principle. Yet here we see that both side’s politicians go along with this repeatedly and without consequences.

    • Joyce Arnold December 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

      Yep. And I don’t see any reason to think this attitude will change.

  2. secularhumanizinevoluter December 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    Things like this make me say “why bother”? Seems I remember one of the rich old white guys that started this country said something along the lines of ….the thought that there might BE a just God makes me tremble for my country….

    • Joyce Arnold December 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

      Sec, I fairly often get to that “why bother” point. I end up “bothering,” of course, but it does get tiring.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong