It’s Hard to Get Past the Anger, Part II: It’s Illegal

The Senate Intelligence Committee Torture Report is too big and complicated to address in a single post. Besides, WC is too angry right now to coherently discuss and analyze what the Report means to America and Americans. So WC will approach the issues in a series of shorter posts. This is Part II.

waterboardingCan we be completely clear about this: the torments inflicted by the CIA and the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, at Guantanamo and the “black sites” scattered around the globe were illegal.

They were a violation of U.S. law.

They were a violation of international treaties to which the U.S. is a party.

The legal memoranda generated by sophists like John Yoo are laughable, wretched and embarrassing excuses for honest legal opinion. They are legal sophistry at its worst.

Before you can talk bout whether torture provides useful information, before you can talk about whether the United States’ illegal torture prevented any terrorist acts, you first have to get by the indisputable facts that (a) torture is illegal, and (b) what we did was torture.

Rep. Perry King (R, NY) claimed on WCBS the United States didn’t torture anyone:

We’re not talking about anyone being burned or stabbed or cut or anything like that. We’re talking about people being made to stand in awkward in positions, have water put into their nose and into their mouth. Nobody suffered any lasting injuries from this.

American torturers killed Gul Rahman; he died of dehydration, hypothermia and starvation, after ice baths, a torture technique developed by Nazi Germany. 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah nearly drowned after some of their many waterboarding sessions, surviving only because of medical intervention.

WC respectfully suggests that Rep. King doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about, hasn’t read the Senate Torture Report and is as ignorant of the law as John Yoo. The United States criminal code defines “torture”:

“torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(A) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

(C) the threat of imminent death; or

(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality

The conduct admitted to by the CIA in its own documents incontrovertibly constitutes “torture” under American law. Rep. King’s ignorance and John Yoo’s sophistry don’t alter either the terms of the criminal code or the documented behavior of the CIA.

It’s not a defense to a criminal charge of torture to claim that “it got us valuable information,” even if that were true. Torture is forbidden. No exceptions. It’s not a defense to claim that “they blew up the New York Trade Center.” Not just because “they” weren’t the ones who committed the crime – many of those tortured were innocent of any crime – but because even if they did we still don’t get to torture them. Prosecute the, yes. Convict them, yes. Even execute them, once they are convicted. But not torture.

And, while WC will come back to thisin a later post, indulging in the ad hominem fallacy doesn’t excuse torture, either. CIA apologists, including unindicted war criminal and former Vice President Dick Cheney, can’t base a defense to torture on the political schism in Congress today. The Senate Torture Report references the CIA’s own documents to substantiate the facts. It’s not partisanship; it’s what the CIA’s own records show.

WC would be more impressed if former CIA officials and Republicans addressed the facts and the documents, not logical fallacies.

In the meantime, any thoughtful person has to ask when indictments will be issued.



2 thoughts on “It’s Hard to Get Past the Anger, Part II: It’s Illegal

  1. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an indictment or two. But I do have a nice fantasy of Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld, in particular, being secretly renditioned to Den Haag and let them prosecute!

  2. I think that’s “Rep. PETER King” in the sentence, Rep. Perry King (R, NY) claimed on WCBS the United States didn’t torture anyone:

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