I read the torture report. You should, too.
The government’s use of violence on our behalf is its scariest power. It’s the biggest of “big government” initiatives. It’s also the easiest to sell to a frightened population — provided that its messier qualities don’t come to light.
Well, they’ve come to light.
The 499-page Senate Intelligence Committee report (www. intelligence.senate.gov) on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack makes plain what was being done in our name: torture.
The government dressed it up in a euphemism and draped it with a flimsy garland of legal justifications, but there’s no hiding the truth.
The CIA detained and tortured heartless terrorists and innocent people alike. It waterboarded so brutally that even some members of the interrogation team cried (Page 44; check it out). A detainee was killed by soaking him with water and leaving him shackled, half-naked, overnight in a cold cell (Page 54).
You don’t care what happened to them, given the horror of 9/11? Fine. But read the report.
To be honest, it’s a lot easier for me to express disgust with the torture when I know that the report so convincingly makes the case that it didn’t work.
The CIA and former Vice President Dick Cheney have vociferously disputed that conclusion, but the report exhaustively documents the many times the agency falsely claimed that torture resulted in “actionable intelligence.”
If the program was so effective, why all the lies?
I can guess only that, having embarked on a torture campaign, the CIA and its bosses thought they had to justify it any way they could.
But what if torture had worked?
Buried deep within those 499 pages is the mention of a plot to shoot up a Columbus shopping mall (Page 284). Torture didn’t elicit that information (plain old questioning did), but what if it had?
I hope I’d still say that a country of high ideals doesn’t sacrifice them in the name of security. But — again, to be honest — I’d probably be saying it with a much bigger gulp.
If nothing else comes of the terror report, I hope that it makes us ponder the detached way we go to war. Congress used to vote to declare it, and we all felt the pain of waging it.
Now, Congress ducks, and we’re content to let presidents employ volunteer armies, spies, contractors, drones and deficit spending as long as they keep it tidy and don’t raise our taxes.
It’s time to start paying attention to what the government does when we give it license to commit violence.