Legality And Illegality

‘US Does Not Torture’

Farooque Chowdhury

Revelations from the US are now near-overwhelming. There are not only exposures of torture techniques to "'defend" democracy and peace; but intricacies, and lies and truths of politics in the land are also there. The US Senate report on tortures by CIA has done the job.

Tales of tortures and brutalities have already been narrated in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Brutal interrogation techniques followed by the intelligence agency reveal its power. Limit to the power has also been revealed: Tortures could not secure interests. The report concluded: CIA interrogation tactics were ineffective.

What would have been the Empire's reaction to similar reports of tortures carried by a regime considered not-friendly to the Empire? Answer to the question exposes two faces of the Empire. One is a public face while the other is the real face. The real face remains hidden till tormented by contradictions. The real face is the state's face, impersonal and imperial face. Incidents bring it out to public. Commoners get an opportunity to learn.

Reactions to the report also reveal a lot. Stakes, strengths and weaknesses, and level of moral standing, virtually zero, face public.

Despite the shivering revelations the former US vice president Dick Cheney considers "it is a terrible report, deeply flawed". Fox News interviewed him. It was his first televised interview since the report's release.

Cheney's comment questions the process of the report preparation, motive behind, and the politicians preparing the report. Although Cheney had not read the entire classified report or the declassified executive summary, as he said in the interview, he said: "It's a classic example of where politicians get together and throw professionals under the bus."

The former vice president is confident about his judgment. So he can pass comment on the report before going through that.

His statement tells a part of the state of the state: Reject a group of politicians' legal effort, incoherence between politicians and professionals in a system, claims that a group of politicians press down professionals.

But shall a group of politicians benefit by pressing down professionals? Don't they need service of professionals? When and why does a group of politicians press down professionals? Are not these related to the interests the state upholds? Is there any incoherence developing in the entire system if the former vice president's comment is correct?

Cheney's further comment was more serious: "The notion that the agency was operating on a rogue basis was just a flat out lie." He said the report is "full of crap".

Two jobs have been done with the statements: Cheney has defended the agency that was trying to defend the state; simultaneously, he has questioned the integrity of the report, which tried to defend the values the state claims to uphold. The Senate Committee investigators examined more than 6 million pages of CIA records. The 500-page executive summary released is based on the committee's 6,700-page study, which includes 38,000 footnotes.

But the two jobs reveal inner- condition of the state and the dominant interests. Also revealed is a trend within the state mechanism, which is not only a ruling machine, but also are formal and informal relations, understandings, manipulations, deals, ideology, approach, timing, etc. There is a combination of hardware and software.

Essentially, Cheney has redefined a few concepts. He insisted the enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) were all legally justified and inconsistent with "torture". However, he conceded that the practice of "rectal rehydration", practiced by the spy agency as has been mentioned in the report, "was not one of the authorized or approved techniques".

Thus legal justification, torture have been redefined, and a mind is exposed. This is one of the minds that claimed to uphold life and human dignity on the earth. Similar minds invented lies with WMD in Iraq. Can unapproved and unauthorized techniques involving human life turn legally justified?

Is it possible to identify which of the following methods of interrogation are legally justified and which are not: round-the-clock EIT (on a near 24-hour-per-day basis), 20 days of nonstop EIT, complete isolation for 47 days, interrogation taking "precedence" over medical care, person stuffed in a coffin-like box for 266 hours and an additional 29 hours in an even smaller box, which was 21 inches wide, 2.5 feet deep, and 2.5 feet tall, rectal infusion of "Pureed" humus, pasta, nuts and raisins used as a behavior control, sexual assault, intimidation with a power drill, waterboarding for at least 183 times, waterboarding until detainees turned blue and were on the verge of drowning, standing sleep deprivation, nudity, threatened with harm to detainees' families that included doing harm to the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee and to "cut" a detainee's mother's throat, naked detainees doused with ice water, keeping awake for 138½ hours—almost six days, refusal to access to toilets, left hanging by wrists for extended periods of time, maintain "stress positions" even on broken limbs and although medical personnel had advised against it, and playing Russian roulette with a detainee?

There was obviously consideration. One of the improperly detained individuals was released after the person endured 66 hours of standing sleep deprivation and ice water baths, and "the CIA discovered he was likely not the person he was believed to be." Two detainees spent 24 hours chained in the standing sleep deprivation position, until the CIA Headquarters "confirmed that the detainees were former CIA sources", who had previously reached out to the CIA to try to share intelligence. It seems the agency was failing to discriminate friend and foe. Torture often led detainees to give false information, on which the authorities acted on. These are not shows of efficiency.

Humanity prevails everywhere; and all the time, humanity is not lost. Many CIA officials were disturbed by the techniques and torture they witnessed.

Cheney conceded a few of the interrogation technique were unauthorized and unapproved. The governance mechanism appears flawed as a state agency resorts to unauthorized and unapproved technique involving human life, not machine.

The former US vice president moves further and widens his claims as he rejects the allegation that his boss, president George W Bush, was kept in the dark. "He was in fact an integral part of the program. He had to approve it before we moved forward with it," said Cheney. "He knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program."

Burden of blame or laurel for performance is now also on G W Bush as "He integral part of the program", "had to approve it", and "knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program." It's being put by none other than Dick Cheney. There is a place named history if all docks fail.

One can recall a statement then—the US president Bush made eight years ago. In 2006, Bush adamantly denied that the US used torture against suspected terrorists. Bush said, "I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world: The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it."

Now, the Senate report reveals that statement was false. The report says Bush's remarks "contained significant inaccurate statements" regarding the effectiveness of the CIA's EIT.

The revelation reveals more of the inside of a ruling system or of a state.

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), George W Bush, in his memoir Decision Points, admitted that he authorized waterboarding in cases of a number of detainees.

Waterboarding, CCR claims, is torture, a crime under domestic and international law.

The CCR and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in a statement said: "As Attorney General Eric Holder stated during his confirmation hearings, waterboarding is torture. [...] Harold Koh, the State Department Legal Adviser, [... stated] during the US Universal Periodic Review that 'the Obama administration defines waterboarding as torture as a matter of law' and it is not a 'policy choice.'"

The statement said: "[N]o circumstance or excuses—including 'national security'—under domestic and international law that allow for the use of torture."

A number of issues and questions are revealed. There are questions related to systematic use of torture, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. There are questions related to a state's acts, democracy's domain, trend in a democracy, hindrances in unveiling acts of torture and politics. There are questions related to power and immunity of a republic's employees, and to rights and safety of human. And, there are questions related to life and dignity. Whatever answers, explanations and legal opinions are found or innovated humanity shall continue its journey seeking justice as humanity can't exist without justice, as humanity prevails over all politics of petty interest.

Vol. 47, No. 28, Jan 18 - 24, 2015