The Torture Regime

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Todya’s New York Times covers how the Bush Adminstration covered its ass about torture by changing the definition of torture, telling nobody about the change, and then assuring the American public that it wasn’t breaking any laws.  You see, if you get to define the law, then you can’t break it.  That was the shell game.

But if the Times coverage is to long and highbrow for you, I suggest you visit The Rude Pundit, who tells the same story in a more earthy way.

Nah, screw it.  I’ll put the relevant parts up here:

In essence, what that [New York Times] article by Scott Shane, David Johnston, and James Risen said is that conversations went on in the White House and the Justice Department in the United States that went something like this: Bush might say, "Hey, all that fucked-up shit we’ve been doing to prisoners, how much of it can we still do?"

To which some random bloodthirsty Yoo or Addington would say, "Oh, fuck, we can do whatever the fuck we want."

And some plaintive Comey or Goldsmith would say, "Umm, we kinda got treaties and shit, maybe a few laws that might say we should back off."

And some Cheney or, to a lesser extent, Gonzales would say, "Yeah, right, fuck you, Comey or Goldsmith. Yoo or Addington, kick out the enhanced interrogation jams and tell those CIA pussies who wanna know if shit’s legal that we got their backs."

And some sighing Comey or Goldsmith would say, "Uh, not to be all buzzkill, but McCain’s got a hard-on for stoppin’ the waterboardin’. Congress might just put the kibosh on the whole deal."

And some lip-licking Yoo or Addington would say, "Are you fuckin’ kiddin me? Fuck Congress. Imperial presidency, cuntface. Constitution sez the Prez can do whatever the fuck he wants, long as he’s makin’ us safe. And McCain’s a little bitch. He’ll shut the fuck up or Lindsey Graham’ll fuck him in the Senate cloak room."

And some increasingly sad Comey or Goldsmith would say, "Don’t really think the Constitution means that."

And some Cheney or, to a lesser extent, Gonzales would say, "Dude, dude, you don’t really get this do you? It ain’t just that we get to make up the laws as we go. We get to make our own motherfuckin’ dictionary. Ain’t nothin’ torture ‘less we sez it is."

And some pathetically frustrated Comey or Goldsmith or Ashcroft would say, "Fuck this. I’m out." And leave.

And some Yoo or Addington would be all like, "Woo-hoo. In yer face, motherfuckers."

And some Cheney or, to an even lesser extent, Gonzales would go, "Call the CIA. Tell ’em naked, drownin’, sleepless brown people is a-okay."

And Bush would say, "I’m glad we decided we’re not war criminals"…

The actual words are clearly not accurate, but that’s really how it went down.  For years, the White House line has been "we do not torture" (even today, that’s the line), but the reason they can say that is because they internally (and secretly) define "torture" as anything they want it to mean.  Or, as Sen. Patrick Leahy says:

"It appears that under Attorney General Gonzales they reversed themselves and reinstated a secret regime by, in essence, reinterpreting the law in secret."

Barack Obama:

The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security….It’s time to stop telling the American people one thing in public while doing something else in the shadows. No more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning. When I am president America will once again be the country that stands up to these deplorable tactics. When I am president we won’t work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution, we will be straight with the American people and true to our values.

Andrew Sullivan:

Perhaps a sudden, panicked decision by the president to use torture after 9/11 is understandable if unforgivable. But the relentless, sustained attempt to make torture  permanent part of the war-powers of the president, even to the point of abusing the law beyond recognition, removes any benefit of the doubt from these people. And they did it all in secret – and lied about it when Abu Ghraib emerged. They upended two centuries of American humane detention and interrogation practices without even letting us know. And the decision to allow one man – the decider – to pre-empt and knowingly distort the rule of law in order to detain and torture anyone he wants – is a function not of conservatism, but of fascism.

There is no doubt – no doubt at all – that these tactics are torture and subject to prosecution as war crimes. We know this because the law is very clear when you don’t have war criminals like AEI’s John Yoo rewriting it to give one man unchecked power. We know this because the very same techniques – hypothermia, long-time standing, beating – and even the very same term "enhanced interrogation techniques" – "verschaerfte Vernehmung" in the original German – were once prosecuted by American forces as war crimes. The perpetrators were the Gestapo. The penalty was death. You can verify the history here.

We have war criminals in the White House. What are we going to do about it?