We're Torturing Ourselves

Five reasons why the president doesn’t want torture prosecutions.

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If I ever have to die for my beliefs, I sincerely hope that my reward in secular humanist heaven is a bottomless platter of crisp, thick-cut Irish bacondelicious. But for an al Qaeda suspect locked up at Guantánamo, finding out that interrogators snuck a tiny grain of pepperoni into his already-eaten cheese pizza might be cause for sheer terror.

Torture is in the eye of the beholder, but by the definition of the United Nations convention against torture, waterboarding and other CIA and military interrogation “techniques” revealed in declassified memos, meet the definition of prohibited acts of torture.

Handcuffs too tight? OK. Simulated drowning? Not OK.

So the Bush administration lawyered up and gave itself permission to use specific methods that they say weren't really torture, but just sort of torture-ish.

It makes sense that Obama, staking his presidency on restoring credibility to the federal government both at home and abroad, decided to release the torture memos to fully disclose the extent to which torture tactics had been countenanced by the previous administration—otherwise he could be accused of trying to cover it up. But now, appealing for an approach that looks forward rather than back, the president has signaled that he isn’t interested in putting American intelligence officers on trial.


The problem with torture isn’t torture. The problem is hypocrisy. As a global superpower that professes to believe in the rule of law, by torturing, we failed to live up to the ideals that we espouse for ourselves and the world.

But pinning the blame on a few individuals is way too convenient. It lets the rest of us off the hook. We didn’t have the memos, but we knew what was going on, right? They don't stash detainees in the Caribbean because "It’s better in the Bahamas." The interrogators ran amok, waterboarding Abu Zubaida and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a total of 266 times, and the rest of us were watching American Idol and 24.

Yes, We Can  (Remember?)”