Joe Conason reported for Salon in February of last year:
The arrest of an Army sergeant (and Iraq veteran) who allegedly waterboarded his 4-year-old daughter for failing to recite the alphabet is sickening. Yet it may be the kind of news we must come to expect if, as a society, the United States determines that torture is an acceptable method of securing information and inducing obedience. Physical abuse of children is nothing new, of course, in certain right-wing quarters, as Max Blumenthal reminded us by exposing the pedagogical sadism of Focus on the Family in Republican Gomorrah.
For a sergeant who tortures his child, however, the relevant model probably comes from somewhere high in the chain of command. At the center of today’s propaganda promoting the torture state are former Vice President Dick Cheney, his family and many of his friends, working through an organization called Keeping America Safe that is run by his daughter Liz Cheney. The financier behind that outfit is one Melvin Sembler, a curious character whose résumé indicates that he is all too familiar with the “enhanced interrogation” of children.
Sembler is best known as a Florida shopping center magnate and Republican fundraiser whose success in amassing funds for the Bush family won him two ambassadorial appointments. Such patronage is a sordid aspect of national politics, but seems trivial when compared with the truly dark side of Sembler’s biography. Long before he achieved prominence in national politics, he was the driving force in the “boot camp” movement that popularized the use of psychological and physical abuse of “troubled” children and teenagers.
His own creation was a federally funded outfit known as Straight, Inc., which eventually fell apart amid multiple lawsuits and accusations of torture by teenagers abused in its secretive facilities.
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