The release of the report on the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program (aka torture) produced by the Senate Intelligence Committee has incited Republicans, Fox News pundits, and warhawks from the Bush administration to respond with unrestrained fury. They have resorted to accusations of political motivation and reckless disregard for possible future harm that public knowledge of these activities might cause. But there is a key consideration that they seem desperate to avoid: If honestly acknowledging and condemning torture could put Americans at risk, maybe we shouldn’t be torturing people.
The torture apologists appear to be more upset by the disclosure of their brutality than by the brutality itself. And even as the report concluded that “enhanced interrogation” (which is like calling rape “enhanced fornication”) was ineffective and produced nothing of value to our intelligence or military missions, the right continues to blindly defend the practice and falsely claim that it prevented terror attacks and led to the capture of terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden. It did not.
The chief apologist among the torture advocates is, and has always been, former Vice-President Dick Cheney. In responding to the news of the CIA torture report’s release Cheney blasted it as “a terrible report, deeply flawed,” adding “The report’s full of crap.” This coming from the man who said that it was “pretty well confirmed” that the 9/11 terrorists were working with Saddam Hussein; that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger; that aluminum tubes could only be used for nuclear centrifuges; that we would “be greeted as liberators” upon invading Iraq; and who still believes that Hussein was hoarding weapons of mass destruction. None of those assertions were true, which casts a decidedly negative hue on the accuracy, or honesty, of his pronouncements.
In a particularly curious exchange that Cheney had with Fox News anchor Bret Baier, they addressed the report’s revelation that President Bush asked that he not be informed about the secret detention centers where the torture was being conducted. Cheney denied that saying “there was no effort on our part to keep him from that.” Which raised the question: Who is Cheney referring to when he says “on our part?” Was there a clandestine national security apparatus that included the Vice-President, but not the President?
Pretty much everybody on Fox News slammed the report, and the decision to release it, as a political stunt that would hurt the country. But it requires a massive quantity of self-deception to ignore the inherent harm that is caused by authorizing acts of torture in the first place. The fact that there is so much hysteria on the right over the disclosure is itself evidence that the practice should never have been permitted.
The whole argument that Americans will be put at risk by this disclosure is phony on its face. The terrorists already knew that the U.S. was torturing people. They knew it from personal experience and the accounts of their comrades. The repercussions from that were already being observed with the attacks on U.S. facilities overseas and executions of American citizens.
The only people who were not being informed about the torture program were the American people. And therein lies the real concern by the torture apologists on the right. It isn’t the alleged risk to Americans at the hands of terrorists that worry them. It’s the risk to Republicans at the hands of voters that they fear.
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