Politicians Decry Fake Torture, Cover Up Real Torture
from the the-nation-cannot-abide-inaccurate-torture-depictions dept
Even if a lifetime of exposure to the continuous hypocrisy of politicians has turned many of us into jaded, cynical shells of human beings reduced to selecting “None of the Above” when voting, every so often something comes along that breaks through our hardened shells… and carves another slice off our dwindling faith in humanity. This is one of those moments.
Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin have an issue with Zero Dark Thirty, most specifically its uber-controversial torture scene. Taking to the nearest soapbox, they have decried this horrible act of
waterboarding storyboarding, calling it “grossly inaccurate and misleading.” As Spencer Ackerman at Wired points out, it’s a bit rich for these three to be making a bunch of noise about fake torture (and related inaccuracies) when they could be clearing the air about actual, state-ordained torture involving real detainees.
If the problem with Zero Dark Thirty is that it’s not an accurate presentation of the utility of torture (and we shudder at the thought that torture ought to be evaluated according to its utility), the senators could make a major push to declassify a massive report put together by Feinstein’s committee into what the CIA’s torture program did and didn’t do.
Feinstein, in particular, should probably keep her comments on fake torture to a minimum, considering she’s sitting on a classified report that details years of interrogations performed by the CIA, often involving torture of detainees.
Last week, Feinstein announced that the Senate intelligence committee she chairs finally approved a 6,000-page study into the CIA’s treatment of terrorism detainees in its custody that took almost four years to investigate. By reviewing more than “6 million pages of CIA and other records,” Feinstein said, the report details how the detainees were treated, how they were interrogated, and, crucially, “the intelligence they actually provided and the accuracy — or inaccuracy — of CIA descriptions about the program.” Feinstein promised “startling details” and “critical questions” about the program, promising it would “settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques such as those detailed in this report.” Small problem: the report is secret, so you can’t read it.
“Startling details” and “critical questions” that the average US citizen will likely never see. Feinstein won’t declassify the report until the President and other executive branch members review it. At that point, the committee will “consider” declassification. In other words, this has next to no chance of being declassified, at least not during this administration, and very possibly much longer than that. Here’s how Ackerman describes the current situation:
So the report that could settle the debate about torture won’t settle the debate about torture until the self-interested parties who’ve stymied accountability for torture decide it’s safe to settle the debate about torture.
Despite a promising start, Obama and his team have shown very little interest in the openness and transparency that was promised at the beginning of his first term. In fact, many of the administration’s actions have headed in the opposite direction.
After an early and acrimonious decision to partially declassify key Justice Department memos authorizing the torture — for which Obama deserves praise — he’s done nothing. A special prosecutor empowered by Attorney General Eric Holder ended up not indicting any CIA official who abused detainees, and didn’t even consider investigating the top officials who authorized the torture in the first place. There has been even less official public reckoning with what the torture program entailed, something that would fray Obama’s relationship with a CIA that implements his lethal drone program, since a former Bush administration aide described that program as amounting to “war crimes.” And it’s worth noting that under Obama’s watch, the U.S. military placed accused Wikileaker Bradley Manning in conditions that were harsher than those for many Guantanamo Bay detainees.
That’s what makes this particular bit of grandstanding especially nauseating. To publicly berate a movie (and its makers) for being “misleading” in its depiction of torture is more reprehensible than decrying the movie for depicting (or “glorifying,” as other critics have stated) torture. If the torture actually happened and produced no usable results, shouldn’t these three be making some noise about the CIA using horrific tactics to produce questionable results? If, indeed, the torture was “successful” and helped take down Bin Laden, shouldn’t those who either explicitly or implicitly justify torture be praising this film for its accuracy?
Since no one’s taking up that latter offer, we can assume that government officials that approve of torture have no desire to express that in public. And if these three have information disproving the movie’s claims, they should be coming forward with it, rather than keeping it hidden from public view. Unfortunately, this report will stay locked down, as no one in this administration wants to hang out the CIA’s dirty laundry. Chances are the report shows that several horrific acts produced negligible results as the link between torture and usable information has always been extremely tenuous. As Nice Guy Eddie said in 'Reservoir Dogs,' “If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he’ll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don’t necessarily make it fucking so!”
Instead of transparency, we get self-serving complaints about celluloid torture and more state secrets and classification. It’s sad, disgusting and entirely unsurprising.