Darkness Visible: Your Thoughts, Ctd

Below are more emails from you on a range of things related to the Senate report:

I’ve been a registered Republican since ’84, the year I became eligible to vote.  Although since the GW Bush era I’ve voted and thought much more like an independent, I had never gotten around to re-registering as an independent for a variety of reasons, mostly inertia.

Until today.

I am so repulsed by many Republicans’ support for torture and their general reaction to this torture report, that I am unable to align myself with them any more.  On a chat board today, I read a description of McCain as a “RINO and a scumbag” for his having denounced torture, and the poster was unaware of how damning this was of the GOP.  You reminded me of how conservative stalwarts like Starr, Buckley and Will unequivocally rejected torture just a few short years ago, and compared it to McConnell’s and Butters’ reflexively cynical response to the report. Oh how fast and far we have fallen!

I just went on-line and re-registered as an independent.  I’ll be writing Reince Preibus to let him know why. I feel a bit cleaner now.

Send one to the White House as well. Another reader:

There’s something I haven’t ever seen you address but that I now see all the more clearly with the publication of this report: why we really did it.  It was NOT for the value of the information gained.  That much is clear.  So, what then? This was not a Foucauldian effort to scare the potential terrorists.  It happened because we feel that these people deserve some form of punishment deeper than prison.  Until we really call that out and confront it, I don’t think there is much point in the discussion at all.  We tortured because it felt good.

Another would agree:

Go back and watch the Jose Rodriguez 60 Minutes interview. When asked explicitly whether waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammad 183 times was justified (or, rather, being subjected to 183 “pours” in a half dozen sessions), he replies:

Can I say something about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? He’s the one that was responsible for the death of Danny Pearl, the Wall Street reporter. He slit his throat in front of a camera. I don’t know what type of man it takes to cut the throat of someone in front of you like that, but I can tell you that this is an individual who probably didn’t give a rat’s ass about having water poured on his face.

It wasn’t about collecting intelligence.  It was about punishment and revenge.

Moreover, another turns to popular culture:

Reading through your live-blog post of the torture report was surreal.  Really, that’s the only word I can use.  You commented at one point that if we were watching this in a movie, the perpetrators would be Nazis.  Sadly, I think that’s wrong in today’s America.

Think of the network TV that we have been fed since 9/11.  Jack Bauer’s 24, Criminal Minds, Stalker – a plethora of violence that is somehow “ok” because it’s gotten past network censors, because the censors are far more concerned with a kid seeing a naked body part or hearing a person say “shit” than letting the kid watch a serial killer kidnap someone and, yes, torture them for a solid hour of TV.

Beyond what this report says about America and our indescribably stupid paranoia and fear post 9/11, it is a reflection of what we’re seeing in popular culture every day.  We are celebrating people who torture people, whether it’s the government calling them patriots because they were willing (and some probably enjoyed) seeing a man repeatedly almost drowned, or it’s the media-consuming public who make Criminal Minds (a torture porn show if I’ve ever seen one) or 24 top-rated television shows.

We’ve simply become immune to abject violence. Combine that with the idea that was pounded into our heads for the last 13 years that EVERYONE is out to get us and we must do ANYTHING to stop them and I can sadly understand how this happened, how this was justified, and how everyone who should’ve known better turned a blind eye to what we as a people were becoming.

Another sees abject violence carried out by our current administration:

I am usually a bleeding heart, but as horrific as the details in the report are, I feel mostly ambivalent and I’m tying to figure out why. I think there are a few reasons. After Bush, the Pentagon, CIA, and White House have switched from black sites and EIT to signature strikes and a disposition matrix. The fact that innocent people were caught up in the black sites and tortured is the worst part of the program, but thousands have been incinerated or torn to pieces by hunks of metal because they were standing too close to a person the White House wanted permanently disposed of.

Another turns back to the previous administration:

Why won’t Bush or Rubio call Lynndie England a patriot? She seems to fit the bill now right? Her and 10 others were court-marshaled for doing their job according to Bush and Cheney.

Another has a bit of dark humor:

Oh, how I would have loved to have heard Hitch respond to a Vanity Fair editor asking him to try rectal-feeding after waterboarding.

Another is just dark:

I can’t say that I disagree with why you’re feeling such anguish.  I certainly feel it, and I don’t know how anyone with any heart at all couldn’t feel it after reading about what happened in those dank torture chambers and rape rooms.  Who’d have ever thought we’d be talking about American rape rooms?

But I think your (and your reader’s) immigrant love of America is a bit too forgiving of this country.  We are a country founded on slavery; we believed in Manifest Destiny and destroyed the indigenous population (because we could); we acquiesced to Jim Crow after a bloody Civil War; we dropped nuclear weapons on civilians; our own CIA had already perpetrated illegal acts on humans in the name of interrogating and torturing them; we had assassination units, and it wasn’t the first time.  When you express shock about the CIA treating the human body as an experimental subject, I think of how they’ve done that on American civilians.  When you are surprised about a PR campaign for torture by the CIA, I can’t help but think how it makes sense, because they have such practice at media manipulation.  The list goes on and on.

To only see the United States as a shining city on a hill is a mirage.  It has never been that.  We are a gray capital, compromised and stitched together as a kludge.  This is not “America hating” or self loathing.  We simply are what we are.  This isn’t an excuse for torture; it’s context for our national capacity for depravity.

We’re a great country.  And we’re criminal fuck ups.  That our tax dollars paid the CIA to torture innocents is not “the end of America as much of the world has known it.”  It’s just America.  It’s the United States removed from its ludicrous bumper-sticker sentimentality and empty words.  It’s our truth.  I hate that, but it’s our truth.

Another reader, however, looks at the glass half full:

Like most, I’m horrified by what the torture report reveals. I also worry how the report will influence how Americans are treated in other countries and by other regimes – whether they will use the report to justify their treatment of our soldiers. Of course that’s exactly how we should determine whether we think something is torture – if we would deem it so if it was how captured Americans were treated. (There, I think there’s little question.) I’m also angered by the response by many on the right.

BUT, I think the one bright spot in all of this is the very fact of the report and that it’s being publicly released (albeit in redacted form). As much as other countries may justifiably complain about what this says about our own human rights and asking what right do we now have to question theirs, can anyone imagine that countries like China, North Korea, Russia, Syria, etc. would ever release such a report. Hopefully, this report is what will push us to correct our behavior. Without such reports, what would provoke other countries to ever correct theirs.

Another also tries to stay positive:

Patience, patience. I do believe that prosecutions are better handled internationally and those prosecutions will take time.  Will all the bad actors be prosecuted no, but just as Nazis are still hunted and tracked US War Criminals will be hunted down and some will be brought to justice.  Look at the length of time it has taken dictators in other countries to be brought to justice, often it takes decades. Personally, I am unhappy that this is the political reality, but I do know that these kinds of crimes are likely to be punished, probably within my lifetime.

However,  often the punishment is not what brings healing and stability.  It is telling the truth and honoring the victims that brings healing.  The Senate Committe did what it had to do: oversee the CIA, and the world has not crumbled overnight.  I am willing to bet that the world will not crumble and that as others see that the truth can be told,  more and more secrets will come to light in the future. Eventually we will be able to move away from the paranoid world-view these torturers let loose.