The Road From Abu Ghraib: A Torture Story Without a Hero or an Ending

Goya_-_La_seguridad_de_un_reo_no_exige_tormento_(The_Custody_of_a_Criminal_Does_Not_Call_for_Torture)Karen J. Greenberg writes at TomDispatch:

It’s mind-boggling. Torture is still up for grabs in America. No one questions anymore whether the CIA waterboarded one individual 83 times or another 186 times. The basic facts are no longer in dispute either by those who champion torture or those who, like myself, despise the very idea of it. No one questions whether some individuals died being tortured in American custody.  (They did.) No one questions that it was a national policy devised by those at the very highest levels of government. (It was.) But many, it seems, still believe that the torture policy, politely renamed in its heyday “the enhanced interrogation program,” was a good thing for the country.

Now, the nation awaits the newest chapter in the torture debate without having any idea whether it will close the book on American torture or open a path of pain and shame into the distant future. No one yet knows whether we will be allowed to awake from the nightmarish and unacceptable world of illegality and obfuscation into which torture and the network of offshore prisons, or “black sites,” plunged us all.

April 28th marks the tenth anniversary of the moment that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were made public in this country.  On that day a decade ago, the TV news magazine “60 Minutes II” broadcast the first photographs from that American-run prison in “liberated” Iraq. They showed U.S. military personnel humiliating, hurting, and abusing Iraqi prisoners in a myriad of perverse ways.  While American servicemen and women smiled and gave a thumbs up, naked men were threatened by dogs, or were hooded, forced into sexual positions, placed standing with wires attached to their bodies, or left bleeding on prison floors.

Thus began America’s public odyssey with torture, a story in many chapters and still missing an ending. As the Abu Ghraib anniversary nears and the White House, the CIA, and various senators still battle over the release of a summary of a 6,300-page report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Bush-era torture policies, it’s worth considering the strange journey we’ve taken and wondering just where we as a nation mired in the legacy of torture might be headed.

Read more here.

37 Comments on "The Road From Abu Ghraib: A Torture Story Without a Hero or an Ending"

  1. This is a very obvious example of a government conspiracy, that mythical unicorn that the media tells us only crazy people believe. Conspiracy to torture is a felony crime punishable by 20 years in prison and the death penalty if the victim dies. This particular conspiracy goes right to the oval office and to the desk of Obama and Bush before him.

    Obama and Bush have embraced the Nixon doctrine: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

    • Torture is nothing. Sustainability is the real tyranny.

    • BuzzCoastin | May 2, 2014 at 12:53 pm |

      that’s because Duh Homeland
      is a kuntery without the rule of law for elites
      as long as eiltes toe the oligarch’s line
      they are free to act with impunity
      and only the low level servents of the eiltes risk punishment

  2. Chad Burke | May 2, 2014 at 8:07 pm |

    While I don’t agree in any way with the captives being humiliated and degraded for their guard’s entertainment, I do wonder when war became a civil enterprise. We entered both Iraq and Afghanistan with no clearly defined goals to comprise or indicate victory. The squeamishness of about half our country left our soldiers hamstrung, tiptoeing through village after village, trying to ferret out enemies hiding behind women and children. War is ugly. Both sides would have been better served with strict directives, devastating strikes and acceptable casualties. Get in, get it done, go home. And if waterboarding saves one American life, here’s a bucket.

    • gustave courbet | May 2, 2014 at 11:18 pm |

      “And if waterboarding saves one American life, here’s a bucket.”
      Torture is a symptom of a total moral vacuum, but it is also an ineffective means of obtaining intelligence, unless you believe in the types of scenarios plied on jingoistic shows like “24.” You might be interested this Op-Ed by FBI counter-terrorism agent Ali Soufan:

      • Chad Burke | May 2, 2014 at 11:27 pm |

        I’ll stand by what I said. I care not at all what you think of my moral values. 1 American life. BTW, don’t you think an op ed on the effectiveness of torture written by a muslim just might have the slightest chance of being a little disingenuous?

        • Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness | May 3, 2014 at 9:20 am |

          I never trust anything a brown skinned or differently believing individual has to say, unless they have electrodes attached to their genitals. I guess I’m just old fashioned that way.

        • gustave courbet | May 3, 2014 at 1:11 pm |

          From your first comment, I surmised that you didn’t have any moral values. That’s why I offered the argument based on logic that tactically, torture is an ineffective means to an end. The French found this out during their occupation of Algeria: “French army officials eventually admitted that the torture regime, aside
          from being immoral, had produced mostly mountains of false information,
          and that the lives it may have saved were taken many times over by the
          new terrorists it created.( So if morality AND tactical effectiveness aren’t enough to sway you, I’ll leave you to your vivisections of neighborhood pets.

    • How many innocent people would you be willing to waterboard to discover the one bad guy who had the info that could save one American life? And how many innocent people would you be willing to waterboard to discover
      the one bad guy who had the info that could save one Iraqi life?

      • Chad Burke | May 2, 2014 at 11:45 pm |

        This is an argument ad absurdum. If they are innocent, why would I waterboard them? If you change the terms to how many enemy combatants apprehended in the field or known associates with definite ties to the enemy. Easy, as many as it takes. The same answer would apply for an innocent Iraqi. When it comes to war, a certain amount of moral relativism is going to be applied. To think otherwise is laughably naive.

        • This is an argument ad absurdum. If they are innocent, why would I waterboard them? If you change the terms to how many enemy combatants apprehended in the field or known associates with definite ties to the enemy. Easy, as many as it takes. The same answer would apply for an innocent Iraqi American. When it comes to war, a certain amount of moral relativism is going to be applied. To think otherwise is laughably naive.

          • Chad Burke | May 2, 2014 at 11:57 pm |

            Don’t cross out what I wrote. I meant exactly what was printed. I was asked how many innocents I’d waterboard to save an Iraqi. I clarified that said Iraqi would have to be presumably innocent and suspects would also have to be enemy combatants etc. etc.

          • …I think you missed my point…

            I don’t think you’re worth one innocent Iraqi life.

            Thankfully for you, you’ll never be tried at The Hague for your crimes.

          • Chad Burke | May 3, 2014 at 12:10 am |

            Alright. I was having a legitimate conversation with you. Since you’ve now resorted to personal insults its clear I’ve won and really have nothing more to say to you. Good day.

          • Waterboarding, Pro or Con?

            Sounds legit, bro.

            Enjoy your mythical victory in the happy center of your brain. That is, if it hasn’t already been damaged too much by PTSD, concussions, uppers, and whatever other pharmaceutical cocktail the military has you chowing down.

        • My “ad absurdum” example is more realistic than yours. Many people who were tortured were merely suspected of having knowledge, not known to. In the fog of war, the military is not a good judge of guilt. That’s how innocents get tortured.

          If being an “enemy combatant” qualifies one for being waterboarded, do you agree that Iraqi “insurgents” had the right to waterboard as many U.S. troops as it would take to save one innocent Iraqi life? After all, the U.S. military were invaders, and their operations did cause “collateral damage.”

          • Chad Burke | May 3, 2014 at 12:24 am |

            Its not about granting them a ‘right’, its knowing that they will do that and worse whether you like it or not. They are rather fond of beheading innocent people over there, do you really think they wouldn’t torture pow’s given half the chance.

          • So beheading innocent people is worse than blowing them up with missiles?

        • Torture doesn’t work. Telling the torturers bullshit just ends the pain.

          • Chad Burke | May 3, 2014 at 11:49 am |

            If that’s what you think, go with it. Interesting how torture has been used as a means of extracting information since the beginning of man yet all of a sudden someone discovered it doesn’t work.

          • “Since the beginning of man”?
            Yeah, okay. Never mind.

          • “Intelligence is not the hallmark of the military mind.”

          • There are lots of counterproductive things we humans have been doing for most of our history. We have raped one another since the beginning too, but to my knowledge it’s not useful in building strong families. Torture has been used effectively as a means of intimidation and control, but has never been reliable in getting information.

    • Considering that the pretext for invading Afghanistan was shaky at best, and prepared in advance of 9/11, and the invasion of Iraq is a clear violation of international law and the standards of decency and those above a certain rank (military and civilian) should be tried for crimes against humanity, I’m curious what military directives would have been appropriate to you?

      • Chad Burke | May 3, 2014 at 12:07 am |

        I don’t even want to get into that mess really. We should have given Afghanistan a week to oust any Taliban and then laid waste to any suspected strongholds or supporters. In and out. Iraq is tougher. In hindsight it probably shouldn’t have happened, but don’t forget both sides of the aisle were all for going in at first.

        • The Controlled Opposition™ and the Moonbats™ agreed.

          Yeah, that makes it okay.

        • You advocate waterboarding, you’re in that mess.

          • Chad Burke | May 3, 2014 at 12:26 am |

            Actually no. He asked about acceptable military directives. My stance on waterboarding has nothing to do with that. Read, comprehend, then reply.

          • Translation:

            “I was just following orders.”

          • I don’t value that distinction.

          • Chad Burke | May 3, 2014 at 11:32 am |

            That’s fine. Whether you value it doesn’t change the fact that it is a distinction.

          • A purely theoretical one, not significant in the real world. To pretend they have no relation is a cop out.

            And if you endorse torture regardless of the legitimacy of the military directive… Well, the Soviet and Nazi empires had amoral thugs like that to oppress those they subjugated too. It’s disappointing the U.S. is a police state and has an empire requiring such jackboots.

          • Eddy Saul | May 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm |

            Chad, torture is not only a war crime it is a crime against humanity, that is, the use of torture degrades all of us as members of the human race because its use lowers the standards of humanity overall. To say that the other guy might or does do it misses the point. The fact that YOU are prepared to do it degrades all of us. Besides, the American use of torture completely invalidates any ‘moral’ standpoint that your government has chosen to use as a justification for war… there’s a very small step from ‘pain equivalent to the loss of a major organ’ (sickening, obscene phrase) to putting on the net the decapitation of your prisoners. It makes you no different to those you hate.
            The myth of American exceptionalism has been used by the USA to actively oppose the ICJ (international Court of Justice) and has been why the United states has refused to ratify (or even sign) numerous conventions on torture and war crimes.
            The US amorality and willingness to interfere in other countries has made your government distrusted by the world and in some areas, like the Near East, actively loathed.

        • Except we weren’t there after the Taliban, we were after bin Laden and Al-qaeda. We didn’t get interested in the Taliban until the propaganda started about “liberating” Afghani women.

          • Chad Burke | May 3, 2014 at 11:43 am |

            No, the Taliban were sheltering bin laden and we ordered them to turn him over. When they didn’t comply we engaged. Not sure where you’re getting your history from.

          • And what was the basis for that demand?

            Resource Extraction Rights (For the Chinese)
            Hopefully an Oil Pipeline (Ha!)
            The Most Primo Poppies on the Planet®

            Imperialism: still an ugly debacle 6,000 years later.

          • gustave courbet | May 3, 2014 at 1:18 pm |

            “On September 7th, 2002 the UK Independent revealed, that only a few
            weeks before the attacks on 11 September, the United States and the
            United Nations ignored warnings from a secret Taliban emissary that
            Osama bin Laden was planning a huge attack on American soil. The
            warnings were delivered by an aide of Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the
            Taliban Foreign Minister at the time.”

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