By Kelly Jean Cogswell
Not that anybody cares, but the U.S. just celebrated the tenth anniversary of a monstrous milestone. On November 13, 2001, Bush legalized kidnappings, indefinite detention, secret military tribunals and hidden prisons for any suspected terrorist. Or suspected supporter of terrorism.
He ordered them all classified as military combatants. Except when it came time to applying the Geneva Convention. In which case they weren’t. Because the Geneva Convention gave soldiers certain rights. And he didn’t want to give terrorism suspects any. He wanted to make them something other than human. Something less than worms. Like queers.
Who are locked up for decades in prison-like schools and homes, tortured to within an inch of their lives without recourse to outside aid, tried by their grade school peers with scanty evidence under unspecified laws. And even released, are suspicious characters still subject to beatings, harassment, indefinite detention. Exile. Death in secret prisons.
“it is not practicable to apply in military commissions under this order the principles of law and the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the United States district courts.”
What do Americans have if not the law? Our moral purity? The Pledge of Allegiance declares our nation is under god. Not the constitution, or rule of law. Relying on god is a particular disaster in a protestant nation where individuals are encouraged to find their personal relationship to the deity, interpret the bible for themselves.
To Protestants like Bush, laws themselves are just phrases made up of words, and words like “torture” can be redefined to mean whatever suits our purposes. And in the casually minted dictionary popularized by Bush and Company, torture is a synonym for death. Anything less is only an interrogation “technique.”
Nobody protested much when Bush signed the order. Even in 2004, when disgusting images of Abu Ghraib flooded the internet, and the world was outraged, few Americans cared. Plenty even said those Muslims deserved it. Whether or not it produced information.
Americans, frankly, are indifferent to torture. I guess we don’t think it can happen to us. Or we’re more degenerate than I thought. It’s the only explanation for why Guantanamo’s still up and running, despite periodic statements from Obama that he’ll close the place down. One of these days. When Congress lets him. And why military tribunals are alive and well for terror suspects like Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, that was arrested before this directive and should have faced trial in a civilian court, instead of being held for ten years, sometimes in a CIA black site where he was tortured.
We are still engaging in extraordinary rendition (kidnapping). And while Obama did issue a directive ending torture, at least where we can see it, and “black sites” were theoretically closed in 2009, the CIA's perfectly happy to operate in support modes in foreign countries like Somalia when somebody else’s hands get dirty. They do their own questioning in temporary, deniable sites, like, for instance, a Navy vessel, where Somali terror suspect, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, was held and "interrogated” for weeks before being transferred to FBI custody and brought to the United States.
Even that fig leaf might disappear soon. GOP candidates are calling for the return of torture as if it were just a couple of licks with the paddle in high school. Bachman and Cain have come right out and said they’d support waterboarding. Rick Perry has declared he’d approve any technique at all that might “save young lives.” Mitt Romney’s said, “Enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used. Not torture, but enhanced interrogation techniques. Yes.”
To which Marc Theissen, Washington Post columnist, and former speechwriter for Rumsfeld, responded with joy and enthusiasm. “The willingness of so many Republican presidential candidates to speak out in defense of waterboarding is encouraging.” If he was horrified that the Obama administration was now killing terrorists with drones, it was because without “live captures,” they’d lose the opportunity for more waterboarding.
I understand greed better than this. Bankers amassing more and more money. Repossessing houses from people that will just have to find something to rent instead. Sucking up bailouts and awarding themselves huge bonuses because to some extent they can keep the idea of damage abstract. Who is my great wealth really hurting? Can you prove it was me?
With torture there’s no question. You know exactly who it that is feeling pain and exactly who is imposing it. Real flesh is being tortured, real minds. So why do Good Americans do it? All the science says it doesn’t work as a way to get information. U.S. and international law says it's wrong. Most religion says it’s an abomination. Is it because we believe Americans are exceptional? Despite our beastly behavior, we’re human, and our victims less than the bloody roosters we weep over, or eat?