Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Torturing prisoners of war

America tortured prisoners of war.

OK, we knew that, I know. But I, for one, still find it hard to believe. America - America - tortured prisoners of war!

When I grew up, we were the good guys. Maybe the Soviet Union would torture people, but never America. Certainly, the Nazis tortured people, and so did Imperial Japan. After World War II, we held trials and found them guilty of war crimes.

And yes, waterboarding is torture. America has considered waterboarding to be torture - when it was done by our enemies, at least - for more than a hundred years. (We did far more than just waterboarding prisoners, but even that is torture.)

As I say, we knew that. For several years now, we've known that the Bush Administration tortured prisoners of war. But now, with the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee torture report, it turns out that the truth was even worse - far worse - than what we'd learned earlier.

Don't read further unless you have a strong stomach. This, for example, is from one article summing up the report:
Interrogations that lasted for days on end. Detainees forced to stand on broken legs, or go 180 hours in a row without sleep. A prison so cold, one suspect essentially froze to death. The Senate Intelligence Committee is finally releasing its review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs. And it is brutal. ...

Contrary to CIA’s description to the Department of Justice, the Senate report says that the waterboarding was physically harmful, leading to convulsions and vomiting. During one session, detainee Abu Zubaydah became “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth.” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded at least 183 times, which the Senate report describes as escalating into a “series of near drownings.” ...

In November 2002, a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to the floor died, apparently from hypothermia. This case appears similar to the that of Gul Rahman, who died of similarly explained causes at an Afghan site known as the “Salt Pit,” also in November 2002. The site was also called “The Dark Prison” by former captives. ...

At the Cobalt facility, the CIA also forced some detainees who had broken feet or legs to stand in stress-inducing positions, despite having earlier pledged that they wouldn’t subject those wounded individuals to treatment that might exacerbate their injuries.

Starting with Abu Zubaydah, and following with other detainees, the CIA deployed the harshest techniques from the beginning without trying to first elicit information in an “open, non-threatening manner,” the committee found. The torture continued nearly non-stop, for days or weeks at a time.

The CIA instructed personnel at the site that the interrogation of Zubaydah, who’d been shot during his capture, should take “precedence over his medical care,” the committee found, leading to an infection in a bullet wound incurred during his capture. Zubaydah lost his left eye while in custody. The CIA’s instructions also ran contrary to how it told the Justice Department the prisoner would be treated.

At least five detainees were subjected to “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration,” without any documented medical need. “While IV infusion is safe and effective,” one officer wrote, rectal hydration could be used as a form of behavior control.

Others were deprived of sleep, which could involve staying awake for as long as 180 hours—sometimes standing, sometimes with their hands shackled above their heads.

Some detainees were forced to walk around naked, or shackled with their hands above their heads. In other instances, naked detainees were hooded and dragged up and down corridors while subject to physical abuse. ...

CIA officers threatened to harm detainees’ children, sexually abuse their mothers, and “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.” In addition, several detainees were led to believe they would die in custody, with one told he would leave in a coffin-shaped box.

Detainees wouldn’t see their day in court because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you,” one interrogator said.

That's just a sample from one article which in itself is just sampling the huge, detailed report. America did that. That's what the Republicans did to my country. They turned us into torturers!

Want more? How about this?
The torture used by the CIA were "not an effective means" of extracting accurate information or getting detainees to cooperate, the report found. Not once was there a 24-like ticking time bomb scenario which prompted the use of torture. Even worse, "multiple" detainees who were tortured had fabricated information or provided faulty intelligence under duress, while other detainees who were not tortured provided useful information.

Despite all that, the report says, the CIA deliberately misled the Department of Justice, Congress and the media by claiming that tortured detainees were producing valuable intelligence. The report said that "interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented."

Coercive interrogation methods included waterboarding, sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, nudity, slaps, slamming detainees against a wall. At least three detainees were threatened with harm to their families, including the threat of raping a detainee's mother. And it gets worse.

"At least five CIA detainees were subjected to 'rectal rehydration' or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity," the report reads, documenting in gruesome detail one such example involving detainee Majid Khan. [How did that turn out? Khan tried to commit suicide multiple times, including trying to tear out the veins in his arm with his teeth.]

Sickened yet? Apparently, the CIA itself determined later that 26 of these people were being held by mistake - and two of them had actually been working for the CIA as informants. Not that we should be torturing anyone, but still, how insane is that?

Nor did torture help us catch Osama bin Laden, though after Barack Obama had him tracked down and killed, the CIA claimed that it had. (They lied.) Again, it wouldn't matter if that claim had been true. Do you really think that the Gestapo didn't have their own good reasons for torturing people?

This is what the right-wing Republicans in the George W. Bush administration - including the president himself - did to our country. Even now, many Republicans still support torturing prisoners of war. (Not John McCain, to his credit.)

Fox 'News' is freaking out (here and here, for example) not about the horrific details of America torturing prisoners of war, but about telling the American people that these things happened.

Why aren't George W. Bush and Dick Cheney - for starters - in jail right now, awaiting trial?
According to [Ben] Emmerson ["the U.N.'s special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights"], international law prohibits granting immunity to public officials who allow the use of torture, and this applies not just to the actual perpetrators but also to those who plan and authorize it. As a result, he said, the U.S. government is "legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice."

Human Rights Watch's executive director Kenneth Roth also said "unless this important truth-telling process leads to prosecution of officials, torture will remain a 'policy option' for future presidents."

PZ Myers summed this up quite well, commenting on Andrea Tantaros' rant about how 'awesome' we are:
Americans tortured an innocent mentally handicapped man in order to get his relatives to give up information. Americans stuck a hose in a man’s anus and poured hummus into his rectum. Americans ran a deep, dark pit of a dungeon and slowly tortured and killed people.

We no longer get to wear the Awesome badge. It’s gone. We never get it back. We’re going to have to spend centuries trying to repair our reputation, and even if we become secular saints, it’s still going to be a huge stain in our history.

But no, we’re not even going to try to make amends, because Fox News is still our mouthpiece and Dick Cheney still stalks the earth, telling everyone that torture is still the right thing to do.

Frankly, we lost the moral high ground when Republican lies got us to invade an innocent country. After torturing prisoners of war, what right do we have to claim to be better than anyone else?

The George W. Bush administration did this to us. They couldn't have done more damage to our country if they'd been trying to bring America down.

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