Darkness Visible: Your Thoughts

A reader writes:

First, thanks for the live blogging yesterday. It was exhausting to read and I’m sure much more so for those on the Dish team slogging through what is a very depressing report. Days like this make my subscription worth it.

Last night, Congress finally agreed on a spending bill to fund the government for the next year. Digging into the bill I found this on pg. 1353:

11      Sec. 7066. (a) None of the funds made available in
12      this act may be used to support or justify the use of tor-
13      ture, cruel, or inhumane treatment by any official or con-
14      tract employee of the United States Government.

It is utterly depressing that we need to include this in a law dictating how taxpayer funds will be used, but as the torture report release makes clear, it is absolutely necessary.

Another is bewildered:

I’m trying to understand why Obama won’t own the report now, and why his administration has resisted its release. Did he want to keep all tools available to current and future executive administrations? Is his administration being held hostage by the CIA? Does he want to stand back and let Congress and the American people work through this without his entering the debate and unleashing Republican rage even more?

I think Obama is a great president and human being, so I am really trying to understand why he seems to be choosing the wrong side of history here. I hope there’s an explanation, but it’s an increasingly small hope.

Another has had enough:

I am disgusted after reading about how Obama is a shill of the CIA and refuses to follow through on transparency in government. He should give the Nobel Peace Prize back. He truly does not deserve it.

Another gives props to Obama’s former presidential rival:

Unfortunately, so far most of the response on the right has been how political the report is, and that it’s just Democrats being mad at losing the Senate (as if this report hadn’t been in the works for a long time), and how torturing people was OK, because, you know, terrorists! I am pleasantly surprised to find myself in agreement with John McCain, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. If he has credibility on anything, it is this, and at least thank god he is speaking up in defense of the report.

Will this cause problems for the US? Perhaps. But, when you’ve done something wrong (and this has all been so very wrong), it’s better to ‘fess up, take your licks, and try to move on. Burying this longer will not make it go away and undo damage that, IMHO, has already been done. Exposing this will allow us to move on, and hopefully, eventually, regain some moral high ground that we have sadly lost.

Another is more pessimistic:

I wish I had some insightful analysis that I could offer, but all I thought as I read of these atrocities was, “It won’t matter. It won’t matter. It won’t matter.”

The report won’t even cause a ripple in this country’s view of torture. If anything, it’s liable to strengthen the position that any and everything is justified, because look at what they did and continue to do to us. To feel outraged, you must view the torture in a vacuum, free of its associations with September 11. And I guarantee you that will NEVER happen. The apologists won’t let it happen, and certainly those who conducted and authorized it will never let it happen.

Add to that the political view that it was released by Democrats in their waning days of Senate power, on the day the Republicans had hoped to grab headlines by humiliating Gruber in front of Congress, and there you have it. The report is at once groundbreaking and astounding – and completely irrelevant if not outright damaging to its own intents and purposes.

I have a feeling we’re about to see, over the next few days (if the story even lasts that long, which in itself is telling), just how far we’ve fallen from our lofty heights. Osama bin Laden must be smiling from his watery grave.

More despair from a reader:

I never truly had my heart broken. Until today.

My father was born here in the States but grew up in Eastern Europe. He lived his childhood on the wrong side of the lines in World War II. The Nazis kicked him out of his bed and made him sleep in the barn with the animals. The Russians came in after the war and eventually turned his village into an artillery range.

He and his brother came back to the States as foreigners in their own land. He got a job, raised his brothers, found a girl and had a family of his own. He was a union man, a Democrat and a fierce anti-communist. He used to wear my brother and me out with stories of his childhood and coming back to America.

He would talk about the Nazis and the Partisans and the Russians. He was a young boy, so he was often insulated from what was happening around him, but not always. In his experience, the Nazis were terrible and the Russians were worse, but America was different. The stories often ended the same way. “What a country!” he’d say as we rolled our eyes and turned back to the TV.

I just can’t reconcile that his America is capable of such barbarism. To annex the tactics of the Nazis is inconceivable.

Perhaps if the masterminds had spent any time in an actual war zone instead of hiding behind a plum Air National Guard assignment or multiple college draft-deferrals. Perhaps then, they would have understood how gravely they betrayed the very America they claimed to defend.

It feels like the America my father loved so dearly died today. And I am heartbroken.

Another anguished reader zooms out:

I’m having trouble recalling a more depressing month.  There’s something about the grand jury decision in Ferguson, the grand jury decision in Staten Island, and the release of the torture memo today that feel weighty – and for me, connected.  Obviously the events in Ferguson and Staten Island have brought us to a critical moment, one that begs our attention to racial injustice, police brutality, the militarization of our police forces, and the profound inequities of our criminal justice system.  There’s been – rightly – much ink spilled these issues in the last several weeks, and hopefully more in the weeks to come.

But with the release of the torture report, I can’t help but think (and hope) that we might be reaching an even broader convergence – one that shines light on the cost of American “security,” at home and abroad.  The cost of the wars on drugs and terror – and the unchecked expansion of police powers that have come with – have wrought havoc on our budget, our laws, our moral credibility, our international standing, and of course the lives of people like Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and Gul Rahman.

I don’t have any hope that the incoming Republican Congress is going to do anything about it, of course.  We will all be lucky if they don’t make it worse.  But what a wasted opportunity for true conservative reform if they don’t.  It’s time we shortened the leash, lest the dogs run away from us.  Maybe they already have.