To attack the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for torture as part of our nationally self-described ‘War on Terror’ is nonsensical, for one simple reason: as a nation, each and all of us joined the conspiracy of silence (tacit approval) and spoken approval.
We renamed torture ‘enhanced interrogation’, admitting to ‘enhanced interrogation’ and denying torture. The media (yes, you too, NPR) joined in the renaming farce begun by someone in government at the time, apparently under the Emperor-Has-No-Clothes rubric that if we don’t call it torture, well, it can’t be torture, now can it?
News outlet employees performed ridiculous ‘re-enactments’ of waterboarding to make a joke of it and claim it wasn’t torture to experience forced drowning.
People on social media, ordinary citizens, spoke often and loudly in defense of torture (calling it something else, of course, and denying at the same time that ‘we’ torture); denied it was happening; claimed it was deserved.
Democrats and Republicans alike supported and enacted laws like the Patriot Act and its progeny, granting enormous and sweeping powers to the Executive Branch to wage the so-called War on Terror.
Guantanamo Bay (still housing detainees today) and other sites outside the territorial United States were opened or reopened, under the apparent theory that if you don’t do it (torture) within our national borders, somehow it isn’t torture.
My point is simple: we the people of these United States are not now allowed to have a single ounce of moral outrage for what we knew was happening at the time and did nothing to stop. Not we the ordinary citizens. Not we the members of Congress. Not we the courts. Not we the Executive Branch.
There is no cover here. And the Senate’s high dudgeon is ridiculous.
You got exactly what you wanted. Do not dare to now claim you didn’t know. You knew. Maybe not the extent of the torture. But you knew torture was happening. To claim you didn’t because you didn’t know every detail is tantamount to the quibbling over price joke* (well, yes, we knew they were forcing water down their throats but never imagined they’d force water up their rectums!).
You knew. And you and we did nothing. Nothing.
And to borrow or paraphrase from Senator John McCain, the question of whether it works or not is entirely beside the point. The point is that it is wrong.
And none of us need the blow-by-blow of rectal insertions to know that it’s wrong. Or we shouldn’t.
So if there is a tone, a posture, to be taken in the now of things torture, might I suggest that the posture be confessional. There is no one to blame but ourselves. We did this. We did it together. And we did it with eyes wide open.
It is who we are. Because we did it. We are people who torture.
Admit it. Claim it. Take it on board as part of our national identity.
Or Admit it. Confess it. Regret it. Repent of it. Change it. Don’t do it again. Learn from it.
But do not dare act as if some rogue element in the CIA pulled one over on us. They didn’t. They did exactly what we wanted them to do.
That doesn’t sit well, does it?
Well, it shouldn’t.
So please, Senator Feinstein, spare me your righteous indignation. You stand with too many others in your post facto condemnations of something you were actually in a position to stop at the time. There should be a Hall of Fame for folks like you and Colin Powell, you chagrined people of power who did such great harm and now wish to claim the status of victim for yourself.
Well, this is one citizen who isn’t having it.
The only problem is that I’m culpable too.
I confess that I did not write enough, protest enough, speak out enough.
I confess that I kept on paying my taxes to support the torture and murder of others.
I confess that I enjoyed the benefits reaped from our torture policies.
I confess that I did nothing to physically interrupt our export of torture around the world.
I confess that out of my own self-interest, I have not once attended the SOA protests.
I confess that I did not do enough. Not nearly enough.
I confess that their blood is on my hands too.
* A man asks a woman if she would be willing to sleep with him if he pays her an exorbitant sum. She replies affirmatively. He then names a paltry amount and asks if she would still be willing to sleep with him for the revised fee. The woman is greatly offended and replies as follows: She: What kind of woman do you think I am? He: We’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling over the price. Variously attributed to Winston Churchill (how I heard it), Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw and others. Quote Investigator