Monday, December 8, 2014

Sullivan on the Torture Report, Ctd.

Andrew Sullivan exposes the mind-boggling cognitive dissonance of the defenders or torture on The Daily Dish.

Everything the president said (in denying torture) is untrue – and it appears that the looming Senate Intelligence Committee report on the torture program will soon prove it. The US did torture many, many people with techniques devised by Nazis and Communists, sometimes in former KGB facilities. The CIA itself admits in its internal documents that none of it worked or gave us any actionable intelligence that wasn’t discovered through legal means. The torture techniques were not implemented by highly-trained professionals, but by goonish amateurs who concealed what they were doing and lied about it to superiors. All the techniques were and are clearly illegal under US and international law.

The question I posed publicly to the president back in 2009 – whether he could come to terms with the reality of torture and explain how it occurred – has therefore been answered a second time. In his own book, Bush owned the torture and took full responsibility for it. Now, he has decided he will not allow a sliver of daylight to come between him and war crimes. You can chalk this up to admirable loyalty, even to those who lied to him. Or you can simply reflect on a president who cannot admit to being the first in that office to authorize such an assault on core American values and decency. Which means to say he does not have the fortitude or character to deal with reality.

On CNN, Candy Crowley still could not say the t-word, and let Mike Rogers argue that evidence of the gravest crimes by government officials should be suppressed because … they will inflame opinion abroad, and possibly lead to demonstrations and violence. Notice that for Rogers, the fact that the US government committed barbarisms more commonly associated with Nazi Germany or Communist China is of no concern. No one should be prosecuted, because, well, because American officials cannot be subject to the Geneva Conventions, which must be observed by every state actor – except the US. And no evidence of crimes by government officials should be released, for fear of undermining faith in said government. Those arguments belong in a dictatorship, not a democracy.

Denial doesn’t get much clearer than that – and it is of a piece with the reckless disengagement, sickening indifference and grotesque negligence that marked his catastrophic time in the Oval Office. In the wake of the shock of Abu Ghraib, Bush disavowed the atrocities, insisting that they did not represent America, that they were counter to American values, and that he was shocked and disgusted by them. And yet, when a report is imminent outlining acts of torture and abuse far worse than Abu Ghraib, and directly under his own authority, he insists that whatever is detailed in the report, the culprits are heroes and patriots, and “we’re lucky as a nation to have them.”

How does one begin to square that cognitive dissonance? How to explain how a believing Christian can describe brutal torture sessions as things to defend and be proud of? And how can the torture of human beings – and the cover-up of the same – be part of American “patriotism”? This is a man not just without a conscience, but a man proud of it. He had a chance to reflect on what his fateful decision to waive the Geneva Conventions after 9/11 produced; and he has decided to own all of it. And we shall soon see what exactly that is.

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