Saturday, December 13, 2014

Torture vs. American Exceptionalism

Mitt Romney, in No Apology: The Case for American Greatness:
I make no apology for my conviction that America's economic and military leadership is not only good for America but also critical for freedom and peace around the world. (Page 2)
... What's chilling to consider is that if America is not the superpower, others will take our place. What nation or nations would rise, and what would be the consequences for our safety, freedom, and prosperity?
The world is a safer place when America is strong....
... The very existence of American power helps to hold tyrants in check and reduces the risk of precipitous war. (Page 10)
... No nation has shed more blood for more noble causes than the United States. Its beneficence and benevolence are unmatched by any nation on earth, and by any nation in history.
Abraham Lincoln understood that the destiny of the world was twined to the destiny of America. It is why he called the United States the "last, best hope of earth." It is still so. As citizens of America, we should be filled with love and gratitude for what this country has been, for what it is, and for what it can still be. (Page 33)
... I'm one of those who believe America is destined to remain as it been [sic] since the birth of the Republicthe brightest hope of the world. And for that belief I do not apologize. (Page 34)
Findings from the recently released torture report, as summarized by the Washington Post (emphasis added):
[A]ccording to CIA records, seven of the 39 CIA detainees known to have been subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques produced no intelligence while in CIA custody. CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were usually subjected to the techniques immediately after being rendered to CIA custody. Other detainees provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques. While being subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques and afterwards, multiple CIA detainees fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence. Detainees provided fabricated information on critical intelligence issues, including the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities.
... CIA officers regularly called into question whether the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were effective, assessing that the use of the techniques failed to elicit detainee cooperation or produce accurate intelligence.

The CIA never conducted a credible, comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques....
There are no CIA records to indicate that any of the reviews independently validated the "effectiveness" claims presented by the CIA, to include basic confirmation that the intelligence cited by the CIA was acquired from CIA detainees during or after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques. Nor did the reviews seek to confirm whether the intelligence cited by the CIA as being obtained "as a result" of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques was unique and "otherwise unavailable," as claimed by the CIA, and not previously obtained from other sources.

More broadly, the program caused immeasurable damage to the United States' public standing, as well as to the United States' longstanding global leadership on human rights in general and the prevention of torture in particular.
Kevin Drum's summary of the torture program seems apt (emphasis added):
The torture was far more brutal than we thought, and the CIA lied about that. It didn't work, and they lied about that too. It produced so much bad intel that it most likely impaired our national security, and of course they lied about that as well. They lied to Congress, they lied to the president, and they lied to the media.
Dick Cheney has an entirely different take on the matter:
[T]he techniques used by the Bush White House—like water boarding—were “absolutely, totally justified,” and hardly akin to torture.
“They deserve a lot of praise,” [Cheney] said, referring to the CIA, The Hill reported. “As far as I’m concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized.”
He also said that waterboarding and similar tactics were the “right thing[s] to do, and if I had to do it over again, I would do it. When we had that program in place, we kept the country safe from any more mass casualty attacks, which was our objective,” The Hill reported.
Cheney's argument on torture is simple: America's first duty is to protect Americans, and that which protects American's is justified. Everyone should have a sliver of sympathy for this argument, even if they reject Cheney's conclusion that his torture program was justified. But this ends-justify-the-means reasoning undermines Mitt Romney's proclamation that "[America']s beneficence and benevolence are unmatched by any nation on earth, and by any nation in history." America tortured people, brutally, without gaining any useful intelligence. America tortured innocent people, brutally, because of faulty intelligence that came from torture. Is this beneficent? Is it benevolent? If you wonder why there are so many skeptics of American exceptionalism, the Senate's torture report might have some answers.

No comments:

Post a Comment