Torture and the Banality of Evil 20


I feel sick. I have that sunk, painful feeling as though my stomach had emptied, and that shakiness though the central nervous system. I feel dirty, like I want to shower for ages.

I have just read all 124 pages of the Top Secret torture memos from Bush’s lawyers in the CIA and Department of Justice, which were obtained and released yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

http://luxmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o10/clients/aclu/olc_08012002_bybee.pdf

http://luxmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o10/clients/aclu/olc_05102005_bradbury46pg.pdf

http://luxmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o10/clients/aclu/olc_05102005_bradbury_20pg.pdf

http://luxmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o10/clients/aclu/olc_05302005_bradbury.pdf

These are just a small sample of the acres of casuistry devoted to justifying the return to medieval barbarity under the Bush regime. The ACLU is pressing for more. Please do read them, but do not be sucked into their crazy internal logic. Remember they are deliberately underdescribing and downplaying the pain and terror this torture causes.

As you look at their careful discussion of how to characterise different levels of pain inflicted on shackled and helpless captives, you are in the crazed world of Dr Mengele. It is obvious even to the most unqualified person that what they are discussing is, to any reasonable person in any normal definition, torture. And that their legal arguments are continually strained to breaking point. The acknowledgement that waterboarding induces “Fear of imminent death by drowning” but argument that this can be “contextualized”, would be laughably bad if it were not so appalling.

Compare the tortured logic of the Bush lawyers with the simple clarity of the UN Convention Against Torture, to which the US is a party and which is the applicable international law.

“For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_cat39.htm

The UK is guilty. Every intelligence report released by the CIA as a result of these torture sessions was copied to MI6 under the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement. Jack Straw took a deliberate and informed decision that in the “War on Terror” the UK would obtain intelligence from torture, by the CIA, by Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and the various thug security services involved in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme.

To the best of my knowledge and belief, I was the only official in the entire British civil sevice who tried internally to oppose this use of torture intelligence. In consequence I was not only sacked but subjected to a sustained campaign of slurs and smears, orchestrated by 10 Downing St and the FCO, with the deliberate aim of destroying my reputation.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/03/trying_again_my.html

That is the evidence which I shall be giving to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights on 28 April. I will also be arguing that, as in the US, the Top Secret documents on the UK’s attitude to torture must now be released, including the telegrams and minutes of meetings to which I allude in my evidence.

Obama’s decision that none of the CIA operatives, bosses or lawyers who instituted this barbarity should be prosecuted, is a dreadful harbouring and encouragement of criminality. If Obama really is genuine about improving the image of the US in the world, that is a retrograde step.

The most important single step he could take now would be to sign the United States up to the International Criminal Court, as evidence of a genuine desire to be part of the community of nations.


20 thoughts on “Torture and the Banality of Evil

  • Johan van Rooyen

    Bless the state-run BBC’s Today programme on Radio 4 this morning which, in reporting this story, still referred to “aggressive interrogation methods”!

  • anticant

    I don’t think the US gives a twopenny cuss about being part of the community of nations. They nearly all believe that they are the only nation that counts. In fact, they are a busted flush and Obama, notwithstanding all his eloquence, is just another Tammany Hall machine politician.

  • Leo Davidson

    Obama making the CIA exempt from prosecution seems like a very clear and simple admission of guilt.

    Not only that, it solidifies the notion that everyone in government should follow the current orders from the top, even if they are illegal and should be exposed. Whistleblowers are severely punished (and thus very rare) while those complicit in illegal activity are rewarded.

    The law, and the system of punishment for breaking it, should encourage people to do the right thing, not just do what they are told by their boss. If it doesn’t then what’s the point of the law?

    To the government the law seems to be a set of tools which they can selectively apply (or not apply) to get what they want done. That is bogus. The law should be applied always and to everyone when it comes to things like torture, war crimes and so on.

  • John D. Monkey

    Craig

    I wouldn’t hold your breath on Obama. He’s part of the system, not part of the solution. We wouldn’t have been elected if he was going to frighten the horses. He’s a politiican – winess his remarks about gun ownership while in Mexico yesterday.

    I would put the chances of Obama signing up to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court at 10,000:1, at best. The whole of US foreign policy is predicated on the USA and its citizens being beyond (above?)any international jurisdiction. They regard the UN as an inconvenient talking shop, not the best chance of peace and justice.

    That said, you may now get a better hearing at the JCHR now Obama has effectively endorsed everything you’ve been saying…

  • Tom Welsh

    All I need to know about waterboarding is that the Spanish Inquisition deemed it torture. (And should any tiny scrap of doubt remain, we also have Christopher Hitchens’ belated but sincere testimonial:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/08/hitchens200808)

    But even the Inquisition was not as hypocritical as the Bush regime.

    You are quite right that the line of “reasoning” in those documents is in the style of Nazism. Once you start to agree that, if “those people” are “trying to destroy us and all we stand for”, then it can be made to seem that “we must stop at nothing to frustrate their efforts”. Next thing you know, you are setting out to liquidate an entire race of people.

  • KevinB

    Quote: “To the best of my knowledge and belief, I was the only official in the entire British civil sevice who tried internally to oppose this use of torture intelligence.”

    How distressing to realise that this is how human beings in positions of responsibility so easily behave…….that we can look away from the suffering of others when when the price of speaking up might be some danger to ourselves.

    …..and what of our MP’s?

    …..so many camels swallowed.

    …..so many deafening silences.

    It is hard not to despair.

  • Strategist

    I’ve read the first one (by Jay S. Bybee), and I think I’ve had enough.

    I was reminded of this: http://www.platformlondon.org/kus.asp which I recommend visitors to this site to check out.

    “I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin’. The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not even done in concentration camps and labour camps [although] in those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.” – C.S. Lewis

  • Vronsky

    The utter coldness of this is hideous – I read only the first item: enough. I wish I believed in eternal damnation.

  • uncontrolled experiment

    This top-down authority, so carefully worded, is all that is needed for brutality to happen ‘on the ground’. If unusual techniques are okayed by an authority then the lower ranks will run amok and ‘get creative’. Milgram’s experimental results of 70% compliance with authority to the point of simulating death of the subject still stand.

  • KevinB

    Strategist

    “But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.” – C.S. Lewis

    Here’s G.K. Chesterton writing along similar lines….but about the uberclass, I think:

    “They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,

    Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.

    .

    They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;

    They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.

    And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,

    Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.”

    from “The Secret People”

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Craig ?” you are a decent man and an eternal optimist who states, “The most important single step he could take now would be to sign the United States up to the International Criminal Court, as evidence of a genuine desire to be part of the community of nations.”

    I wager that the Obama administration will not in his four years sign up.

    I make this bet with you, and “hope” (Obama’s favourite word) I lose this bet.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Craig ?” you are a decent man and an eternal optimist who states, “The most important single step he could take now would be to sign the United States up to the International Criminal Court, as evidence of a genuine desire to be part of the community of nations.”

    I wager that the Obama administration will not in his four years sign up.

    I make this bet with you, and “hope” (Obama’s favourite word) I lose this bet.

  • mistah charley, ph.d.

    My countryman Kurt Vonnegut [who SHOULD have received the Nobel Prize in Literature] had personal experience of weapons of mass destruction – as a prisoner of war during World War II, he survived the mass murder of the inhabitants of Cologne (Koln) by terrorist bombs – bombs dropped from airplanes, as terrorists backed by prosperous states customarily do, as compared with ground-delivered bombs, the terrorist weapons of the less prosperous.

    At the end of his life, Vonnegut despaired that the U.S. would ever become the humane and reasonable nation that people of his generation imagined they were fighting for – too much power, too much corruption, too much addiction to oil and money and destruction.

    If the Christians are right, it might be possible to achieve rehumanization – but it would require repentance – and this would require a recognition of having done wrong, and a decision to reform – “go, then, and sin no more.”

    There is no trace of any such inclination in the propaganda emanating from those now in charge. We need to change our leaders – either provide transformative experiences to the people now in power, or put different people in power.

    Are the English-speaking “little people” big enough to do this? I wonder. I hope so, but I fear they are too ignorant, too lazy, and too corrupt to do so.

    In other words, we may already have the government we deserve.

  • Jason

    Craig.

    Today’s disclosures demonstrate the value of having the truth on your side (that you have been smeared so disgracefully because you are in possession of the truth is utterly damning of HM government).

    Good luck to you, and I hope that the resistance on the part of the authorities to what you have to disclose, while it may not have weakened, may be more difficult to sustain in light of these events.

  • Strategist

    Thanks for that useful info on Jay Bybee, Solomon.

    It’s a big story today, but there was all all the info we needed to know out there in the Morning Star on 1 May 2008. A lesson for all of us, I’m sure. I’m off to buy today’s copy down the newsagents now…

  • David McKelvie

    mistahcharley, phd, here’s an observation from a fellow countryman of yours on the matter of torture and the USA:

    “What puzzles me is that humankind has known, from the time of the Inquisition, that torture doesn’t get you the truth: it gets the person being tortured to admit to anything to get the torture to stop.

    So what is the dynamic of what went on here? Simply put, people in power were able to sadistically injure and humiliate by proxy, and smugly believed that they would never, ever have to face the consequences.

    Every member of the Bush administration involved with ordering and approving torture should be at The Hague for war crimes trials.

    However, that is just about as likely to happen as for pigs to fly.

    But unless, and until, this happens, the United States will remain quite a different country from the country in which we grew up, one in which the use of torture as an instrument of interrogation is accepted, and has become the norm.

    That moment, from the White House on down, when torture became “normalized” was the moment this government lost any credentials as a moral leadership for either its citizens or the world.

    And do you think for one moment the US government isn’t going to do this to American citizens, naturalized or otherwise, if they think they can get away with it?!?

    Better think again.”

    – Michael Rivero, commenting on “Former Gitmo guard ‘ashamed’ he once participated in detainee abuse”, http://whatreallyhappened.com, 18 Feb 9

Comments are closed.