Blind to Torture


The United States does not condone torture, does not practice torture. Furthermore, we will not agree to send anybody to a nation or place that practices torture.

Tony Snow, White House press secretary, and protector of the president, June 7.

The ordeal continues long after a detainee [kidnapped by the CIA] is . . . able to return home. Victims have described to us how they suffer from flashbacks and panic attacks, an inability to lead normal relationships and a permanent fear of death. Families have been torn apart.

On a personal level, deep psychological scars persist; and on a daily basis, stigma and suspicion seem to haunt anybody branded as a “suspect” in the “war on terrorism.”

June 7 documented report by the Council of Europe on CIA renditions—that are approved by George W. Bush—of suspects sent to countries where they are tortured.

The United States is far from the only nation accused of repeated complicity in torture in the devastating report by the 46-nation Council of Europe, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights. Chief investigator Dick Marty emphasizes: “The United States actually created this reprehensible network [of kidnappings and torture]. . . . But . . . it is only through the intentional or grossly negligent collusion of the European partners [in these crimes] that this ‘web’ was able to spread all over Europe.”

The countries actively permitting the kidnapping of suspects from their streets are, Dick Marty notes: Italy, Sweden, Bosnia, and Macedonia. Providing “staging posts”—including logistical support—for these CIA agents and planes are: Spain, Turkey, Germany, and Cyprus.

Also, allowing stopovers for CIA planes on the way to torture chambers in such countries as Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, and Syriaare Britain, Ireland, Portugal, and Greece.

Are any of those nations going to be held accountable by their courts and legislatures? Is the United States, where Congress has blocked any investigation of CIA renditions? Nor is there any insistent demand for investigations by the Democratic Party leadership. And in blue and red states, most of the citizenry seem blind and deaf to this “reprehensible network” of renditions initiated by the United States government—first in the Clinton administration and then greatly expanded by George W. Bush.

On June 8, the day after the release of the Council of Europe report, a lead editorial in the British Financial Times spoke the naked truth about “the outsourcing of torture to friendly despots . . . spreading like a lethal virus.”

The United States and its European partners, the editorial continued, exemplify “a moral capitulation by liberal societies and a surrender of the rule of law in the face of jihadi totalitarianism. If we behave like this, what exactly are we defending?” (Emphasis added.)

What led to the suicides at our prisons in Guantánamo is also, of course, part of this surrender of our vaunted values. At a late-May counterterrorism conference in Florence, organized by New York University Law School’s Center on Law and Security, Judge Baltasar Garzón, Spain’s leading, and fearless, magistrate—demanding the immediate closing of Guantánamo—said:

“I have as much interest as you do in wanting the problem of terrorism to be resolved. But if we continue along these lines we are on the road to committing crimes against humanity. And it will move from the people who perpetrate the crimes to the people who authorized them.” (Emphasis added.)

And to all the 2008 presidential candidates of both parties, I recommend for reflection, and even public action, this call by Judge Garzón to face what is being done in our name by the CIA’s spiderweb and the “people who authorized” that web in the Defense Department, the Justice Department, the Oval Office, and the Republican leadership in Congress. Said Judge Garzón:

“I come from the country of the Inquisition, when people were told, ‘If you cooperate, we’ll cut your head off, and if you don’t, we’ll burn you alive.’ We had to learn from experience that torture, and mistreatment and degradation, do not work as investigation techniques.”

The June 17 New York Times reported an investigation on abuse of our prisoners in the war on terrorism by Donald Rumsfeld’s beloved Special Operations units in Iraq. A heavily redacted report by Army Brigadier General Richard Formica tells of three “detainees locked for as many as seven days in cells so small that they could neither stand nor lie down, while interrogators played loud music that disrupted their sleep.”

The cells “were 4 feet high, 4 feet long and 20 inches wide.” Mercifully, the prisoners were extracted to go to the bathroom, be washed, and be interrogated. General Formica has decided that two days in those cells “would be reasonable,” but five to seven days were more than American values would allow.

But the general concluded that no one involved in this or any of the abuses, let alone Donald Rumsfeld, deserved to be disciplined—and “none of the detainees seemed to be the worse for wear” because of these methods of interrogation. I wonder if the general and his superior, Rumsfeld, would be any the worse for wear after seven days and nights in those cells.

But what the hell, nobody’s head was cut off, and nobody was burned alive. We’re much too civilized for that, as Tony Snow can tell you. (Mr. Snow says he never has to “bite his tongue” when talking to reporters. The problem is what he is told to swallow.)

In the European Council report on the torture web, Dick Marty gives credit to the human rights organizations that for years now have provided concrete information on these crimes. Also, he adds, certain journalists, “investigating on the ground, often for months on end,” have been valuable.

“But,” Marty added, “these revelations had met with curious indifference from both the media and governments and political circles in general.”

Next week: a piercing of the indifference by American Jewish groups—including hundreds of rabbis (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform)—organizing against torture! They may open many more eyes to the lethal virus we, the people, should demand be extirpated from this nation’s war on terrorism.