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Cheney – investigation into torture ‘offends the hell out of me’

Dick Cheney: Torture investigation ‘offends the hell out of me’

Astonishing stuff. Torture doesn’t bother Cheney in the least, but investigations into torture are an abomination, that set a terrible, terrible precedent. The irony of his claims is stark, even down to his use of the same expressions that have been used by critics of torture when referring to torture:

To investigate the Bush Administration’s use of torture is ‘a terrible decision’.

To criticise torture is unconstitutional.

The Intel men ‘put their lives at risk’.

The investigations have ‘a very, very devastating, I think, effect on morale inside the intelligence community’.

‘it’s clearly a political move’.

And lastly, all this investigation ‘offends the hell out of me, frankly, Chris […] that will do great damage long term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions’.

 The transcript of the whole Cheney interview with Chris Wallace on “FOX News Sunday” is available here.

 By paralleling the language of the torture critics, the logical conclusion to Cheney’s arguments would be to ask whether investigation into the use of torture does or does not constitute torture.

 One must not underestimate the power that Cheney still wields in the US media (esp. Fox) and his ability to scaremonger a gullible and easily-scared public. Having repeatedly stated that Obama’s policies could bring about massive terrorist attacks on US soil, he and his daughter regularly defend the act of waterboarding as being merely enhanced interrogation, and not torture.

 I recently re-read Henri Alleg’s account of being tortured by the French military during the Algerian war in the late 50s. He describes, but doesn’t use the same name, the very process of waterboarding, which comes between bouts of electrocution via electrodes on his fingers, tongue and penis:

“Together they picked up the plank to which I was still attached and carried me into the kitchen. Once there, they rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink. Two or three Paras held the other end. […] Lo__ fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag, while De___ said to him: “Put a wedge in his mouth.” With the rag already over my face, Lo__ held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube.

When everything was ready, he said to me: “When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.” And he turned on the tap. The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, all the muscles of my body struggled uselessly to save me from suffocation. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably. “That’s it! He’s going to talk,” said a voice.

The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows. “Well, then?” I remained silent. “He’s playing games with us! Put his head under again!”

This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxiation right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I had felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time I was fighting with all my might not to die. I did not move my hands, but three times I again experienced this insupportable agony. In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water.

The last time, I lost consciousness.

From: Alleg, Henri, “The Question,” pp. 48-50, trans. John Calder (London: John Calder, Ltd. 1958.)

 To this horrifying account of the brutal technique of ‘the water cure’ (as it was known in mediaeval times), Cheney would surely simply remark – “that ain’t torture”. His loving and dutiful daughter Liz, meanwhile, casually remarks: “Waterboarding isn’t torture.” (crooksandliars.com)

 Former wrestler Jesse Ventura, who a) served in Vietnam and b) was waterboarded as part of his Navy Seal training, remarks that not only is waterboarding real, and not simulated, drowning, but that it is without question torture. He also argues that it is ineffective, as the victim simply says what he believes will make the torture stop:

VENTURA: It’s drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you — I’ll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders. (Crooksandliars)

Even John McCain has returned to his pre-candidacy form to denounce the practice:

Other practices of enhanced interrogation that have recently been declassified from the CIA archives are:

 

• Threats of execution, using semi-automatic handguns and power drills

• Threats to kill detainee and his children

• Threats to rape detainee's wife and children in front of him

• Restricting the detainee's carotid artery

• Hitting detainee with the butt end of a rifle

• Blowing smoke in detainee's face for five minutes

• Multiple instances of waterboarding detainees, of the type we prosecuted Japanese war criminals for using:

• Hanging detainee by their arms until interrogators thought their shoulders might be dislocated

• stepping on detainee's ankle shackles to cause severe bruising and pain

• choking detainee until they pass out

• dousing detainee with water on cold concrete floors in cold temperatures to induce hypothermia

• killing detainees through torture techniques, whether accidental or not

• putting detainee in a diaper for days at a time to live in their own filth

 

Info retrieved from the Crooksandliars post Keith Olbermann and Jane Mayer Discuss The Horrors Of Torture And Dick Cheney's Lies

 

Cheney and Slavoj Žižek strangely both share the opinion that the debate on torture should be closed – Cheney because torture works and is thus ‘a no-brainer’, Žižek because torture is repugnant and to discuss its possible use is as outrageous as debating the merits of rape.

 

Either way, the problem is not going away, and is causing tremendous ripples across the US television debates – unlike in the UK where the matter of torture by proxy and the complicity of the MI5 is being ignored by the press in the hope that it will disappear.

The torture debate continues – with echoes of Algeria and Ulster

John Amato, over at the tremendous ‘virtual online magazine… OK, it’s a blog’ Crooksandliars, recently published an interview with Alfred W. McCoy, author of A Question of Torture. The interview was originally broadcast on Late Night Live – ABC Radio National, Australia. March 15, 2006, and as John points out, ‘considering the current events in the torture issue, it seems apropos to take another look at it now.’

McCoy is another of many to point out in simple easily-understood terms a number of key points in the torture debate, most notably, that the ‘ticking-bomb scenario’ so beloved of torture advocates, is an outright illusion that has never occurred in reality.

Others (of many) to point out not just the immorality and cruelty of torture, but its overall ineffectiveness – indeed, its contra-effectiveness – are Ray McGovern, 27-year CIA veteran, Clive Stafford-Smith, in his book Bad Men, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum in the article The Torture Myth, Ruth Blakeley, of the University of Kent, in her powerful article ‘Why torture?’, and Jean-Paul Sartre, in the preface to Henri Alleg’s first-hand description of being tortured in Algeria by the French, The Question. Sartre, indeed, sums up the ‘ticking bomb’ scenario neatly:

“How are the torturers justified? It is sometimes said that it is right to torture a man if his confession can save a hundred lives. This is nice hypocrisy. […] Was it to save lives that they scorched his nipples and pubic hair? No, they wanted to extract from him the address of the person who had hidden him. If he had talked, one more Communist would have been locked up, no more than that. […] These tortures bring a poor return: the Germans themselves ended by realising this in 1944; torture costs human lives but does not save them.” (Alleg 1958: 22)

John Amato continues with a piece entitled: “Not Only Is This Illegal and Immoral, It’s Stupid. Six Days Without Sleep Doesn’t Produce Useful Information”, strengthening the argument of the uselessness of torture…

The important issue at stake is the hard-lined pragmatic question of result. If all the moral and ethical arguments against torture were wheeled out to argue against its use, and yet, as Cheney pa and daughter would have the US public believe, genuine intelligence is indeed gained through the practice of torture (sorry – enhanced interrogation techniques, including mock executions, waterboarding, sleep deprivation and drill attacks – see Newsweek article – and these are only the declassified techniques…)… if this genuine intel is gained, then there would be a gap in the moral/ethical argument. The great debate at present in the US, and spilling over into the UK with regard the alleged participation/complicity of the MI5 in the torture of British citizens or residents oversees, is whether a) these techniques have really produced this intel of such value to homeland security and b) if so, could that intel (and perhaps more) have been gained through empathetic interrogation. As would be expected, the argument in favour of these techniques is promoted by hard right wingnuts like Bill O’Reilly on Fox, versus, well, versus all those liberal pansies whom big Bill so despises.

Interestingly, the debate has stirred some puddles that clearly had never really settled in their cultures’ memories – the French in Algeria and the British in Northern Ireland.