I will admit that I have not been one of those stumping for prosecuting everyone connected with torturing detainees – and can we stop using that stupid word and call them what they really were prisoners. I actually think I would have been content to “move toward tomorrow” – at least in theory. But then I start hearing stupid stuff and it pisses me off and I start rethinking my opinion. Like..

…there WERE people in the upper reaches who said things like – Uh, guys? I think this is ILLEGAL. That is to say – I disagree with your legal opinion. And not just some nobody – but Condi Rice’s legal counsel. And when he said it, he was basically told to shut up.

Philip Zelikow, Torture Memo’s, MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show Part 1 of 2

Or I hear something like this…

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Check the relevant portion starting at 5:45 in the video, where Donny Deutach asks, “DONNY DEUTSCH (CNBC host):

Jon, don’t we all know what happened? And you set it up best, that September 10th — we were one country; on September 12th, we were a different country. And we all know that if you said to everybody in this country, “OK, if by waterboarding one terrorist, you could save your brother. Would you do it?” We all know the answer to that. And that was the tenor of this country.

So, without an investigation, and, Joe, help me out here or disagree with me, don’t we all kind of know that we walked into that gray emotional and legal area — and obviously, these are things that people are taught in U.S. military training techniques, so there’s a precedence there. Don’t we kind of know what went down?

That’s Donny Deutsch, questioning the need for even a commission to investigate how the HELL we turned into a nation that OPENLY ACCEPTED torture as an acceptable way to “extract” information from people we had not charged with anything. See, that’s the part that REALLY bothered me the most. I expect our leaders to overreact. I also expect that we, as a people, will pull them back when they overreact. In the matter of torture, we didn’t.

I still remember very heated arguments with friends, people I had always considered to be reasonable, rational and compassionate, who staunchly and very sadly and regretfully accepted that torture was a necessary tactic in interrogation. Who sighed and agreed that it was a sad thing that we were building toward witch hunts, but believed that they were necessary. Who accepted without question that torture yields reliable information that we could not get any other way. Who would, if their brother’s life was in danger, waterboard a suspect themselves.

It made me sick to my stomach – and I mean that literally, not figuratively. It didn’t disgust me – it twisted my stomach in sad, hard, painful knots. And it made me wonder how the hell we got to the point where we believed that torture is okay. And here’s why I think we believe that torture gives us good, actionable information – in contrast to what history actually tells us,

Because history does indeed tell us the exact opposite. Remember the Witch  Hunts? The Spanish Inquisition? Yeah, we all look back to those times and remark on the accuracy of the intel THOSE torture programs produced. So how come we were so ready to believe that nearly drowning a man, twisting him into a pretzel, depriving him of sleep for days and slamming him into a wall repeatedly would get him to tell us IMPORTANT THINGS?

Because it always works on TV, yo, doesn’t it? It always works in the movies, so of course it works in real life. The little problem with that theory is this, though – a person can’t tell you what he doesn’t know. If you torture him enough, though, he WILL tell you something. Anything. Just to make it stop. So the value of torture in eliciting actionable information lies in … um… using it on someone who actually KNOWS something of value. And if you’re running around snatching up people based on information that you got through torture… well… see above.

I’m still not sure what I think about prosecution. I’m not sure who and how high and how far. But I do know that I want daylight on this. I want to know – and more importantly I want it waved in everyone’s faces – how the hell we turned into a country that believed in torture. Because that’s not the America I know.


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