Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tortured Confession

The confession of John Kiriakou regarding the CIA use of torture, aired yesterday by ABC news, has the media and blogosphere all atwitter about what a black eye the revelation is to the Bush Administration. Even Keith Olbermann was breathlessly reporting about it on Countdown last night. Me, I’m not sure that this guy is all that real, as a few things he’s saying strike me as a bit “off.”

First, he says that the torture he witnessed was 35 seconds of waterboarding and that as a result the subject not only gave in, but he did so permanently. According to his description the subject actually became an ally and freely gave information without a trace of coercion from then on. After 35 seconds of mistreatment.

Now, I am certainly no expert, and maybe I would cave after 5 seconds. But I have seen films of our soldiers who have been tortured for months and years and some of them did sign documents and make statements, but they certainly did not become allies of their torturers. Is our present enemy one of so little character that a small dose of torture is enough to make them spill their guts for the rest of time? If so, why are we so afraid of them? It’s a minor point, but his description sounds like something out of a dime novel.

Kiriakou is quoted in the news report as saying that the torture he witnessed “prevented dozens of attacks.” Does nobody other than me hear an echo of Bush Administration propaganda in that statement? Why do I have the feeling that this guy is more interested in convincing us that torture is effective, which almost no one believes, than in revealing that our government has been doing it, which everybody knew anyway?

This is a key suspicion for me. He repeats over and over in his dissertation that it was necessary at the time and that it was effective, that it “saved lives.” It seemed to me that this, in fact, was the real gist of what he wanted to convey.

When Gibson asked Brain Ross why Kiriakou was coming out with the story now, Ross’ answer made no sense to me at all. Ross reported that Kiriakou was angry that the torture sessions had been taped and even more furious that the tapes had been destroyed. According to Ross, Kiriakou thought the tapes should have been preserved as a “historical record.”

What? He’s angry that the tapes were made, but since they were made they should have been kept? In what world is that logical?

When a storyteller provides illogical reasons for telling the story, I have to seriously doubt not only the reason for telling it but the facts as well.

I do not really doubt that the CIA has been fouling this country’s honor by torturing, but I do seriously doubt the effectiveness of that practice as reported by one John Kiriakou.

And the effectiveness or otherwise begs the point. The practice is wrong regardless of its outcome. It is a disgrace to this country and dishonors those who have fought and died to secure its freedom. Kiriakou and others may try, but torture cannot ever be justified.

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