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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Report: “It is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” after 9/11

It’s ironic that one of the stories pushed off the front page by the Boston tragedy yesterday involved a report on the Bush administration’s brutal reaction to a similar tragedy.

New York Times: A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.

Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.
Not only would this make members of the Bush administration as guilty of war crimes as most realists have suspected, but it has almost certainly resulted in American deaths. Fighters who believe their enemies are torturers will fight to the death, rather than risk capture — meaning that many battles in Iraq and Afghanistan were lengthened by a torture-caused unwillingness to surrender among combatants.

It’s also very easy to recruit fighters when you’re fighting torturers, because torture itself is a sort of proof of evil — the good guys don’t torture.

And, of course, it’s stupid and pointless, as well as counterproductive:

The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.
In other words, torture doesn’t magically turn people into truth-tellers.

There are a lot of people who deserve to be in prison over this. Unfortunately, that will almost certainly never happen. What we can do is keep this information and use it to make sure we never make the same mistake again. At heart, the torturer and the torture apologist are cowards. None of these people should ever be remembered as heroes.

[photo by World Can’t Wait]

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