Torture Was Another Bad Response to Fear

by Bill Brenner on December 11, 2014

The CIA’s use of torture during the Bush era was more insidious than previously revealed and did nothing to prevent terrorist attacks, the Senate Intelligence Committee says in a report.

No surprise there. I’ve said it before: The fear that drove us after 9/11 led to a lot of inhumane behavior in the name of safety and security. And the American people — scared out of their wits — were perfectly fine giving government carte blanche to do what it wanted. In the process, American ideals were compromised.

Mood music:

The report is long, but here’s the synopsis from CNN:

The majority report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee is a damning condemnation of the tactics — branded by critics as torture — the George W. Bush administration deployed in the fear-laden days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The techniques, according to the report, were “deeply flawed” and often resulted in “fabricated” information. …

“In many cases, the most aggressive techniques were used immediately, in combination and non-stop,” the report says. “Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in painful stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads.”

To be fair, America is imperfect and has done more right than wrong in wartime. Also, good people will argue that brutal enemies need to be stopped by any means possible, and that the torture of suspected terrorists was nothing compared to the carnage unleashed on 9/11 and in subsequent years, as terrorists beheaded innocent Americans and shared video footage with the world.

I’m not an expert at this level of intelligence gathering, nor do I pretend to be. Vilifying the CIA may be fun sport for some people, but it doesn’t solve anything.

And, remember, we the people essentially ordered the government and military to do whatever was necessary after 9/11.

Fortunately, as the years pass and more evidence of wrongdoing is revealed, more people have come to their senses. We’ve seen that with all the backlash against things like warrantless wiretapping and many other things revealed in the Snowden leak.

Yet no matter the danger we face, torture contradicts our ideals. It feels wrong in my gut. It didn’t always feel wrong, but then I was under the spell of fear like many other people.

So what do we do with the information contained in this Senate report?

Many will use it to say they told us so and as a reason to bash all of government and the CIA in particular. That’s human nature and it’s fine by me. But after that, we need to find a better way forward. We need to come up with better examples of a more humane approach. We need to build a discussion around that and keep up the pressure until government heeds our will.

In the final analysis, the government and its activities are a reflection of us, and we have to take responsibility for what went on in the last decade.

That includes me.

American Flag Spy

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