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Pierce writes: "In case you missed it in the blare of all those candidates and their announcements, it's been a big couple of weeks for news about torture, which is something that the United States doesn't do, except when it does, and then only when it's necessary, because then it's not torture because John Yoo. And freedom."

Waterboarding. (photo: Mario Tama/Getty)
Waterboarding. (photo: Mario Tama/Getty)


This Country Can Be America, or It Can Be a Country that Tortures. It Cannot Be Both

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

17 June 15

 

This country can be America, or it can be a country that tortures. It cannot be both.

n case you missed it in the blare of all those candidates and their announcements, it's been a big couple of weeks for news about torture, which is something that the United States doesn't do, except when it does, and then only when it's necessary, because then it's not torture because John Yoo. And freedom.

Yesterday, the United States Senate passed a bill banning torture. (Didn't George Washington pretty much do that 200-odd years ago? Didn't we sign a treaty agreeing not to torture? Shut up.) Of course, 21 Republican senators—none of whom was John McCain, who really is sort of the go-to senator, at least on this issue—voted to leave the torture option open for future presidents.

Should the McCain-Feinstein amendment be made law, however, it will be harder for future administrations to repeat the actions of the Bush administration, which used controversial legal opinions to justify torturing detainees. The amendment would also turn into law a second component of the Obama order, which requires the Red Cross to have access to detainees in US custody, bringing America into line with the Geneva convention.

(Out on the campaign trail, foreign-policy whiz kid and Choice of a New Generation Marco Rubio strapped himself securely to the ol' waterboard: "I would have voted no on this amendment. I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won't use, and denying future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people and the U.S. homeland." Alas for the nation he hopes to lead, Rubio courageously skipped the vote.)

So, if you're keeping score at home, that's 21 United States senators, all from one political party, including the Senate Majority Leader and his Majority whip, who voted to continue the practice of torture by the government of the United States. Presumably, they will all run on this issue the next time they come up for re-election.

Earlier, though, thanks to Spencer Ackerman, we learned of another way the practice of torture undermines our values and deforms our laws. It seems that there were doctors who oversaw the "enhanced interrogations" with which the embattled silent heroes of the CIA had so much fun. (OK, every damn one of them should have his or her license pulled immediately, but that's another argument.) Part of that job was to see how much damage could be done to a detainee before the torture became counterproductive, or the detainee became dead, whichever came first. In this, the CIA and its pet medical staff may well have broken the laws forbidding human experimentation.

Sections of a previously classified CIA document, made public by the Guardian on Monday, empower the agency's director to "approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research". The leeway provides the director, who has never in the agency's history been a medical doctor, with significant influence over limitations the US government sets to preserve safe, humane and ethical procedures on people.CIA director George Tenet approved abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, designed by CIA contractor psychologists. He further instructed the agency's health personnel to oversee the brutal interrogations – the beginning of years of controversy, still ongoing, about US torture as a violation of medical ethics.

I dunno. Maybe Alan Dershowitz can come up with a plan for the government to get "human experimentation warrants" to make it all OK.

This country can be America, or it can be a country that tortures. It cannot be both, and it looks brutal and foolish when it tries to be. You can draw your inspiration from George Washington, or from Josef Mengele. Your choice. Twenty-one Republican senators lined up with the latter on Tuesday.


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+43 # Dongi 2015-06-17 12:48
This article really focuses on the point of what kind of country do we want. One where the CIA can literally beat the shit out of people in its custody or one where this sinister and nefarious agency including its so called medical doctors can only act within certain limits. Who does America want to be? (1) a human society, (2) a collection of Republican Mengeles. I think the Senate is leaning toward the former, well most of them anyway.
 
 
+1 # oakes721 2015-06-19 09:13
AT THIS MOMENT, TORTURE IS BEING CARRIED OUT IN YOUR NAME.
.
How long can we "discuss" intellectually our wronging of others while our selected 'representative ' organizations continue to torment, torture and murder any they choose on NSA's long, long list.
 
 
+27 # Dongi 2015-06-17 12:49
a humane society
 
 
+49 # Trish42 2015-06-17 17:54
Until Americans can tell the difference between reality and a TV show, they will continue to believe that torture "saved lives" and the torturers will never be held accountable.
 
 
+49 # REDPILLED 2015-06-17 18:13
The USA in real history was founded on the genocide of indigenous people and slavery. So "America", that egocentric, jingoistic creation of partiarchal, racist, sexist, white landed-gentry aristocrats, has ALWAYS been "America", the self-delusional imperialist state which tortures, invades, exploits, bombs, and oppresses.
 
 
+18 # Merlin 2015-06-17 19:06
REDPILLED 2015-06-17 18:13

History, if it is truly accurate history, (and as they say, history is often propaganda written by the winners,) should be neither excused nor denied. It was what it was, can’t be changed and will always remain for future generations to ponder over, and hopefully learn from.

Damning the living today, for the sins they had nothing to do with, is unproductive and cynical. If we must rant about the sins of our fathers, an educational approach is at least productive, as it helps us in our decisions today. Damning the present and denigrating the future leads to a feeling of no hope at all, which can easily lead to simply giving up.

At bottom, the vast majority of people all over the world are basically good people. We all want the same basic things. Food, clothing, shelter, love and a secure and better life for our children.

It must be understood that it is the country’s leaders that drive the force for good or evil, (I do not refer to religion in using these terms.) Read what Goering had to say on that:

Continued below
 
 
+35 # Merlin 2015-06-17 19:06
Continued:

Goering's famous quote, spoken to his attorney at Nurenberg:
"Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither
in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood.
But , after all, IT IS THE LEADERS of the country who determine the policy
and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is
a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist
dicta torship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the
bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is TELL THEM THEY
ARE BEING ATTACKED, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. IT WORKS THE SAME IN ANY COUNTRY."

It is my view, that it is not my job to whine, or to give up, regardless of how bad the situation looks. (And at 80 years old, I have been through my share of very difficult situations.) The only way anything gets changed or accomplished, is for me to stand tall for principle, and fight for what I see as best approach. I will do the best I can with what I have, and go down fighting, if it comes to that. Life is a process of which I am but an infinitesimal part of, but in my mind my actions and ideology are important to all those around me.

cheers :-)
 
 
+2 # Billy Bob 2015-06-18 17:14
I hope you live another 80 years. I always go out of my way to read your comments, and I'm always very pleased to see your opinions voiced in any conversation. I've said it many times before, but great comment!
 
 
+2 # Merlin 2015-06-19 08:11
Billy Bob 2015-06-18 17:14

Thanks Billy! The feeling is mutual. I enjoy your posts and learn from them! You are an important part of the conversation here.
 
 
+10 # EternalTruth 2015-06-18 07:21
Quoting REDPILLED:
The USA in real history was founded on the genocide of indigenous people and slavery. So "America", that egocentric, jingoistic creation of partiarchal, racist, sexist, white landed-gentry aristocrats, has ALWAYS been "America", the self-delusional imperialist state which tortures, invades, exploits, bombs, and oppresses.


Shhhhhhh!!!! You're ruining our fairy-tale with facts. Quit being a hater. We like pretending to be the land of the free and brave, protectors of democracy and equality around the world. We're a nation of children, living in the land of make-believe, led by by violent sociopaths.
 
 
+15 # Akeel1701 2015-06-17 19:00
welcome to the New America - the Corporate Empire America - who's emblem ought to be the Snake or the Vulture, rather than the Eagle - it's not worthy of that.
 
 
+5 # Cassandra2012 2015-06-18 12:36
Umm... definitely the vulture as in vulture capitalist ( i.e., Romney, Rauner, Walker et al ....)
 
 
+2 # Akeel1701 2015-06-20 12:37
Nice one, Cassandra :)
 
 
+16 # oakes721 2015-06-17 19:42
If one man calls you an ass, ignore him.
.
If two men call you an ass, think about it.
.
If three men call you an ass, buy a saddle.
 
 
0 # Merlin 2015-06-19 08:14
oakes721 2015-06-17 19:42

Hahaha! good 'un!
 
 
+12 # xflowers 2015-06-17 19:55
Thanks for this reporting Charles Pierce. Your last paragraph nails it. That's the choice.
 
 
+13 # reiverpacific 2015-06-17 19:56
Just ask any of the survivors of the attempted genocide, murder, cowardice-venga nce, ruthless scorched-Earth and greed-driven dirty tricks violations of their dignity, stewardship of the land-mother and the true, up-front warrior spirit visited on them by "America" (and Canada). You'll get a real graphic and pragmatic opinion that "America" and torture are joined at the the hip.
Or look hard at the history of any of the Central and South American nations and even farther afield (like Iran), the the US of Armaments has invaded, usurped and overthrown regimes which attempted some kind of self-sufficient Democracy or Socialism, as well as having trained their Death Squads at the School of the Americas or whatever it's called now, of which Honduras is but the latest example.
Ergo, they are -face it squarely- the same, as was the British Empire before the US took the reins.
You can't establish or run an Empire by being accommodating and helpful to the native peoples -or can you? It's never been tried yet!
 
 
+9 # Dongi 2015-06-18 03:55
I protested at the SOA a few years ago. It was still going by the same name. That place is an utter disgrace to America's concept of honor. When we provide graduate training for class after class of moral misfits, then, we are a part of the problem and this concept of hope of the world is simply wishful thinking.
 
 
+9 # turtleislander 2015-06-18 06:21
Living in a dying social order isn't pretty. By now, Jefferson, slave owner or not, would have called for abolishing an "odious" government. That's our present.
 
 
+10 # jimmyjames 2015-06-18 09:11
I would waterboard every one of the 21 Senators who voted against this bill and see if perhaps they wouldn't change their mind.
 
 
+3 # Dongi 2015-06-19 01:05
That's the best idea I've heard in a long time.
 

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