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America's Dark Side That We Must Confront: Our Official Policy Is to Torture People

New Film 'Zero Dark Thirty' doesn't force us to confront one America's own private nightmare.

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Others, such as the Court of Human Rights or the  Senate Intelligence Committee, may give us glimpses into the nightmare of official American policy in the first years of this century. Still, our president refuses to look backward and fully expose the deeds of that near-decade to sunlight; he refuses to truly look forward and unambiguously renounce forever the use of anything that could be seen as an “enhanced interrogation technique.”  Since he also  continues to support robustly the precursors to torture -- the “ extraordinary rendition” of captured terror suspects to allied countries that are perfectly happy to torture them and  indefinite detention by decree -- we cannot fully understand what men like the Korean poet and the Iraqi tribal leader already know on our behalf: we are torturers and unless we awaken to confront the nightmare of what we are continuing to become, it will eventually transform and so consume us.

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year veteran Foreign Service Officer at the State Department, spent a year in Iraq. A  TomDispatch regular , he writes about Iraq, the Middle East, and U.S. diplomacy at his blog,  We Meant Well . Following the  publication of his book  We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People , the Department of State began termination proceedings against him. Through the efforts of the  Government Accountability Project  and the  ACLU, he instead retired from the State Department in September 2012.

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