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Torture in the Cheney administration

Remember when Senator Durbin got in trouble for saying we were running Guantanamo Bay like a gulag? It turns out he was wrong...
 
 
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I’m so tired of writing about dreary topics. I’d like to talk about how poor Sylvester Stallone is going to make a fool of himself with not only Rocky VI, but also Rambo IV. I’d like to talk about how the Royal family coming to America this week is the single least interesting news story I have ever heard.

But alas, it is not meant to be. Just when I think it’s time to lighten up, the Cheney administration pulls me back in … and waterboards me.
The wacky group who brought dignity and morality back to the White House has not one, but two stories about torture in today’s papers. It’s a conspiracy to keep me talking and writing about torture. I live in LA, I have a radio show and a cute girlfriend – everything should be sunny in the world. I was late to the show today because there was an "Impeach Bush" rally right outside my house. They keep pulling me back in.

So, the day starts out fun with a piece in the Washington Post about how we have now taken over old Soviet style gulags in Eastern Europe and filled them with our prisoners. Remember when Senator Durbin got in trouble for saying we were running Guantanamo Bay like a gulag. It turns out he was wrong to use the word gulag … as a metaphor. It is now literal.

To be fair to the Cheney administration though, we can’t keep these secret detainees in prisons here because that would be a gross violation of US law. So, if we’re going to break the law, we have to do it somewhere else. When we torture people in Thailand, Jordan or Eastern Europe, hey that’s their problem, not ours. After all, you gotta put a secret prison somewhere.

An ignored consequence of our decision to torture and secretly imprison al-Qaeda figures in dungeons (again, this is literal) across the world is that we will never be able to " bring them to justice."

How are we going to bring them to open court after we broke just about every treaty on prisoner treatment? Are we really going to let them talk openly about the different torture techniques we used on them? Would we even be able to convict them now after we extracted evidence through coercion?

We never caught Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the two top al-Qaeda figures. This should be a lasting source of shame, but our president says he is unconcerned. However, we did manage to capture three important figures in al-Qaeda – Abu Zubaida, Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. These men were an integral part of the team that planned and carried out 9/11. Their capture should be a tremendous source of pride for us.

Unfortunately, it looks like we might never be able to try them for the greatest crime in American history. After having tortured them and kept them in secret detention for several years, we have lost the moral high-ground to these cretins. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do with them now. Are we supposed to keep them in secret jails for the rest of their lives?

I would love to bring them to the United States so that we can try them and put them next to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and Ramzi Yousef, the men who committed the first attack against the World Trade Center in 1993. They’re serving life sentences in a maximum security prison in Colorado. Wait, how did we manage to put them away without secret prisons and abuse? Oh that’s right, that was back in the day when we believed in our laws, in the treaties we signed and the American justice system.

Speaking of our laws, that brings me to the second article from today. The New York Times details a debate within the White House on whether we should continue to torture people. That’s where the Vice President’s new Chief of Staff, David Addington warms up to the job by arguing that “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, humiliating and degrading treatment” will be just fine as US policy.

You think I’m kidding? Read the article. Addington had time to prepare as the Darth Maul to Dick Cheney’s Darth Sidious ( I had to look it up, too), having served as chief counsel, torture-memo preparer and grand inquisitor for Cheney earlier. You think I’m kidding … okay, he didn’t physically waterboard people himself, but he did order it.

So, I have to ask this bothersome question again – is this what we have become? Are we comfortable with our Vice President actively lobbying for torture, converting old Soviet prisons into US dungeons, being above international law, abusing our authority and the trust of our allies, running secret prison systems throughout the world and denying people we capture humane treatment. Are we comfortable getting rid of our justice system for a system of secret detentions? Is this what we have become?

It makes me ill. Dick Cheney has presided over the degradation, humiliation and mutilation of the American system of justice. He needs to be removed from office immediately. He is a national embarrassment. He makes Joe McCarthy look like a Boy Scout. His name will go down in infamy.

If you’re a Republican who still supports these actions, you will live to regret what you have said exactly as the racists of the Old South did. You will claim you never really said those things and never really supported what this administration did. You will one day go to an event honoring Captain Ian Fishback or Joseph Darby, or maybe even Richard Clarke, and you will pretend you were always on their side.

I love America and I am sure we are better than this. I am sure we will straighten out the ship. But some irreparable damage has been done. It will take decades to win the trust of the world back. It will take years to be able to look people straight in the eye and tell them what America is supposed to stand for. To tell them of the noble experiment that was America. To, once again, be that shining city on a hill.

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.