The CIA provided a holiday gift of the truth with its report stating that the government’s enhanced interrogation techniques, AKA “torture,” didn’t produce any usable intelligence. Dick Cheney, as you would expect, called the report “full of crap,” “deeply flawed,” and a “terrible piece of work.”

Cheney has his story and he’s sticking to it, telling Fox News, “I think what needed to be done was done. I think we were perfectly justified in doing it. And I’d do it again in a minute.”

Yeah, but Cheney’s boss, George W. Bush, during a 2006 conversation about moving prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, told Katie Couric:

The reason why we’re moving them there is we want them to go through a military tribunal. We want them to receive the justice that they denied other people. But the other thing is that we have to have the capacity to interrogate—not torture, but interrogate people to learn information.

Couric asked Bush if detainees were being mistreated. “No. Not at all. It’s a tacit acknowledgement that we’re doing smart things to get information to protect the American people,” the president said. “I’ve said to the people that we don’t torture, and we don’t.”

When Americans think of torture, we visualize how Hollywood and comic books portray it: bodies stretched on racks, tearing off of fingernails, and the use of thumbscrews and vices. Bush and Cheney would quickly point out that Americans don’t do that sort of thing.

Yeah, but what about waterboarding, sleep deprivation, forcing detainees to stand for hours on end with arms above head, threatening family members, rectal feeding, locking prisoners in confining boxes with insects, and in one case, freezing a detainee to death?

In his book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy—The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, William Blum writes:

No one who has gone through the American dungeons in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, or spent time at any of the many secret CIA facilities, and no American who would be subjected to the same, would have any hesitation calling what they experienced “torture.”

Whatever Bush and Cheney think, “America’s idea of what is torture is not the same as ours and does not appear to coincide with that of most civilized nations,” Justice Andrew Collins of the British High Court wrote.

Americans pride themselves for living in a country with a Constitution and Bill of Rights that make things like torture out of the question. Besides international law, there’s an American law against war crimes, passed in 1996 by a Republican-dominated Congress.

Torture is believed to happen only in other countries. Americans know it’s a slippery slope. “If today it’s deemed acceptable to torture the person who has the vital information,” writes Blum, “tomorrow it will be acceptable to torture his colleague who—it’s suspected—may know almost as much.”

However, this isn’t your granddad’s America. Those in government protect their own. After all, they’ll need someone to have their backs someday. It was considered a joke when Nazi defendants pleaded, “I was only following orders.” But when CIA Director Leon Panetta was asked about punishment for those who carried out torture in the Middle East, he said, “[T]hose who operated under the rules that were provided by the Attorney General in the interpretation of the law [concerning torture] and followed those rules ought not to be penalized.”

Panetta evidently didn’t read the UN’s Convention Against Torture, which states, “An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.” Those giving the orders should be prosecuted as well, but Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama has said he doesn’t want to pursue war crimes charges against George W. and other members of the Bush administration. The president said we should “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gave the very same excuse for not punishing Khmer Rouge leaders, remembered especially for orchestrating the Cambodian genocide. “We should dig a hole and bury the past and look ahead to the 21st century with a clean slate,” Sen said.

In America’s Deadliest Export, Blum explains that US officials are inclined to throw past atrocities down the memory hole, because both Democrats (Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski) and Republicans (Ronald Reagan) supported Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge for several years.

Common folk are supposed to forget all of that nasty stuff. “America is an exceptional country,” and the facts are fabricated to make its leaders out to be “holier than thou.” Americans have been groomed by government schools to believe in this exceptionalism. It’s no different than America’s Middle East ally, Israel. Israeli columnist Uri Avnery wrote an evocative paragraph about his country’s culture, cited by Blum:

This system indoctrinates its pupils with a violent tribal cult, totally ethnocentric, which sees in the whole of world history nothing but an endless story of Jewish victimhood. This is a religion of a Chosen People, indifferent to others, a religion without compassion for anyone who is not Jewish, which glorifies the God-decreed genocide described in the Biblical book of Joshua.

Blum makes his point by asking his readers to substitute “American” for “Jewish” and “American exceptionalism” for “a Chosen People.”

If America occupies such high ground, how could our leaders, elected by the country’s well-intentioned masses, torture without a thought and lie to our faces about it? Doug Casey explains:

People like Obama, Hillary, or Cheney—which is to say most people with real power in Washington and every other government—do what they do because it’s their nature. They’re as cold, unemotional, and predatory as reptiles, even though they look like people.

Chaney spent days making the political talk-show rounds defending America’s enhanced interrogation techniques. His defense is illustrated by this exchange with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press:

Chuck Todd: Let me ask you this, we’ve got Riyadh al-Najjar. He had handcuffing on one or both of his wrists to an overhead bar, would not allow him to lower his arms. Twenty-two hours each day for two consecutive days in order to break his resistance. Al-Najjar was also wearing a diaper and had no access to toilet facility. Was that acknowledged? Was that part of the program that you approved?

Dick Cheney: I can’t tell from that specific whether it was or not.

Chuck Todd: And then—

Dick Cheney: I know we had—

Chuck Todd: —page 53 of the report.

Dick Cheney: —the report is seriously flawed. They didn’t talk to anybody who knew anything about the program. They didn’t talk to anybody within the program. The best guide for what in fact happened is the one that’s the report that was produced by the three CIA directors and deputy directors of the CIA when this program was undertaken.

And, in fact, it lays out in very clear terms what we did and how we did it. And with respect to trying to define that as torture, I come back to the proposition torture was what the al-Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11. There’s no comparison between that and what we did with inspect-enhanced interrogation.

With every individual torture scenario Todd asked Cheney about, Bush’s VP defined torture as two planes crashed into the World Trade Center by guys armed with box cutters and airline tickets. Unless 3,000 Americans are killed, it’s not torture.

Cheney has unapologetically cast America’s morals to the wind, as The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf writes:

That is the moral standard Cheney is unabashedly invoking on national television. He doesn’t want the United States to honor norms against torture. He doesn’t want us to abide by the Ten Commandments, or to live up to the values in the Declaration of Independence, or to be restrained by the text of the Constitution. Instead, Cheney would have us take al-Qaeda as our moral and legal measuring stick. Did America torture dozens of innocents? So what. 9/11 was worse.

To the idiotic sounding “waging war for peace,” we can now add “torture for our safety.” The beacon on the hill has gone dark. American exceptionalism has been snuffed out by the sociopaths in Washington who claim they are keeping us safe with torture.


This article originally appeared on January 9, 2015 at Casey Research.
The featured image was taken by takomabibelot (CC BY 2.0 — cropped).