Monday, April 20

And A Field Telephone Is A Communications Device, Except When It's Attached To Your Genitals

Scott Shane, "Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects". April 19
C.I.A. interrogators used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique that top Obama administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from Al Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported.

The C.I.A. officers used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 against Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum. Abu Zubaydah has been described as a Qaeda operative.

A former C.I.A. officer, John Kiriakou, told ABC News and other news media organizations in 2007 that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew....

The release of the numbers is likely to become part of the debate about the morality and efficacy of interrogation methods that the Justice Department under the Bush administration declared legal even though the United States had historically treated them as torture.

WHICH, then, seems ample justification to refer to them in print as "torture techniques", sans quotes, or "interrogation methods," quotes included, or for just working around it if you want to be squeamish. Not to trivialize things, but when, for example, an administration takes what had been called, throughout the history of the Republic, "tax increases" and starts referring to them as "revenue enhancements", the onus is on it to explain the subtle shades of meaning; otherwise it ought to be treated as a risible, if not shameful, attempt to use euphemism in an effort to fool people which should be doomed to failure if the target audience has what are called "reading skills". It ought not to be presented as though there's some sort of active semantic debate going on between the previous two centuries and some transparent PR scheme.

The present case is the opposite of laughable, of course; too bad the faux-balanced coverage veers that way once or twice. When we report that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was subjected to "simulated" drowning 183 times in March, 2003 (it is a month with 31 days, meaning 5.9 times per day, once every 4.06 hours a day, every day, non-stop), we are reporting that he was tortured, period. There's no fucking wiggle room about "interrogation", however enhanced, and there's precious little to suggest that those supervising this treatment, if not also those carrying it out, have some sort of blanket excuse, or immunity, bestowed upon them by the small-animal-torturing sexual psychopaths then occupying the two highest executive offices in the land. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah were being tortured. For kicks. By, and at the behest of, people who do not believe that American justice is medieval enough to be fully satisfying. This was one month. If we expected to get information out of these two we would have allowed them time to breath oxygen.

Let's lose the 24 shit. This was not some sort of hot pursuit/ticking time bomb bullshit (and I say this as someone who believes that a competently-trained field commander, in a combat zone, might indeed be justified in using harsh measures if he had determined they were absolutely necessary and time was of the essence, whether or not they are proven efficacious. Although it is also true that I believe such cannot be sanctioned by US or military law). It was torture justified by the facile description of the crimes of 9/11 as Acts of War, which metaphor we then treated as an adequate description whenever it suited us, and ignored when it came to the Geneva Conventions. What was either of these two ever able to sputter? Certainly not the truth: every single increase in the Color Code Alert Level changes in that Homeland Security Barometer for Stateside Tom Clancy Fanboys was bogus; every single global terror attack went unpredicted. We were torturing Clyde because Bonnie had escaped to the mountains. Because trial and execution weren't good enough for President Frog Baseball.

Those of you with long memories will recall those distant days when "If X then the terrorists will have won" was a common rejoinder. It was certainly convenient to portray them as SPECTRE. It was politically rewarding, too, for a time. And, as seemed clear to more than a few of us at the time, it mostly looked liked a lot of fun to far too many of our fellow citizens, a too-sizable chunk of the military establishment with direct control over captured combatants and non-combatants alike, and the nearly-unfettered criminals installed in our highest office at the time. It's not a question of what "top [unnamed] Obama administration officials" think of, or don't think of , as "torture." It's torture, and it was perpetrated not for any of the flaccid excuses offered as an afterthought, but out of the pure infantile-sexuality and psychopathy of its stewards, who believed they were empowered to ignore the law and all standards of civilized behavior, in the name of all Americans. The one proper response is to allow the actual Rule of Law to serve as the rivers Alpheus and Peneus and clean the Augean stables. This of course will be, and already has been, tempered by political cowardice. The least the rest of us can do--including the Times--is to lose the fraudulent quotation marks once and for all.


Anonymous said...


Scott C. said...

No doubt the gentlemen above is referring to the tea towel worn as a makeshift wimple by the floating, disembodied head that deliveres the prologue to ZARDOZ. I too found him annoying, but would stop short of recommending he be immersed in a sack along with surplus kittens.

After hearing this news I went back and reread Hayden and Mukasey's indignant defense of these "effective methods" in the WSJ. I remember when Hayden testified before Congress that waterboarding had "only been used on three individuals" a lot of air seemed to go out of campaign to expose and charge the perpetrators, largely because the coverage -- especially on cable news -- seemed to assume this meant the technique had only been used three times -- not 183 times on only one of the three individuals.

If "Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he know," then what were the other 182 applications for, if not, as you say, kicks. Practice? Were they running a dunk tank to buy t-shirts for the CIA softball team? Desperately trying to get a prize-worthy entry for America's Funniest Home Videos? Pity they destroyed the tapes, but when it comes to the lighter side of psychopathy, you really had to be there.

map106 said...

Okay, here's my question:

The new right-wing meme seems to be that Obama has weakened our national security by releasing these memos, that terrorists can now train against the "enhanced interrogation"/torture methods we used.

So, when during his 183 waterboardings did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed figure out that they weren't going to drown him? 101? 119? 161?

Seems to me, that in addition to the rampant sadism involved, we were practicing our own torture survival regimen.

heydave said...

Just you watch: those motherfuckers are gonna learn breath holding techniques that will RULE!

Grace Nearing said...

It's official: I now feel sorry for Lynddie Englund. Point a finger at a bunch of naked Iraqis, get a couple years in a military jail. Waterboard KSM nearly 200 times in a month, get a pass.

Kia said...

I have to say that the first time I heard or read a news item that employed the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques," I found that I had a really neat measure for determining whether I thought that news organization had any moral credibility. Those who used it had no moral credibility. One result is that I no longer listen to NPR or watch television news. I find that the stink of this lie pervades everything else they do, and I feel like I'm countenancing a crime by listening to any of their other proramming. "Oh, they're only cackling ghouls sometimes" just doesn't cut it for me.

Joyful Alternative said...

Kia, neither you nor I will know whether any of them reported the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting (and the contents of that reporting) unless some kind blogger tells us, because I've found them all not credible and bad for my digestion, too.

And Mr. Bats, thanks for "Tom Clancy fanboys." I'm in the middle of a tedious project, and I'm now empowered to finish it.