Friday, January 22, 2010

Nope, nothing to see, but maybe we should

Another week and still no coverage in the corporate media about the death by torture interrogation of three human beings. Dahlia Lithwick of Slate tries to understand why.
Some torture stories are just too horrible to contemplate, while others are too complicated to understand. But Scott Horton's devastating new exposé of the possible murders of three prisoners at Guantanamo in 2006 is neither: It's simply too terrible to allow to be true. Which is why it has been mostly ignored this week in the mainstream American media and paid little attention by the usual crew of torture apologists on the right. The fact that three Guantanamo prisoners—none of whom had any links to terrorism and two of whom had already been cleared for release—may have been killed there and the deaths covered up, should be front-page news. That brand-new evidence of this possible atrocity from military guards was given only the most cursory investigation by the Obama administration should warrant some kind of blowback. But changing what we allow ourselves to believe about torture would change the way we have reconciled ourselves to torture. Nobody in this country is prepared to do that. So we have opted to ignore it.
and why it shouldn't
As Richard Schragger wrote in Slate in 2006:

Military lawyers are not only concerned about how the enemy will treat our troops. They are also concerned about how our troops will treat the enemy—and not just because that treatment might be morally offensive and/or strategically unwise. As one of my colleagues—himself a JAG officer—put it, the Geneva Conventions are so honored by military lawyers because they protect our own troops' humanity. The conventions prevent higher-ups from ordering subordinates to engage in repugnant acts, and they offer soldiers on the ground some basis for differentiating legal acts of killing and destruction from criminal acts of killing and destruction.

I think about this every time I hear someone—usually on a comment thread—claim that if he had just 15 minutes, KSM, and a lobster fork, he'd get himself a confession. We don't want that guy in the military, and frankly, neither does the military. Our soldiers object to torture not because they want to pamper terrorists but because they want to protect us from our own worst selves. The third big lie the media have perpetrated on the American public as we cheerfully debate the "ticking time bomb" scenario and the possible efficacy of torture is that our soldiers remain unaffected when asked to participate in such abuse, or to lie about it after the fact.

I have no reason to doubt the investigative work of Horton or Denbeaux's team and every reason to believe the Obama administration's investigation of Hickman's story was less than exhaustive. But above and beyond the implausible narrative constructed by NCIS and the bizarre throat autopsies on the deceased, four military guards at Guantanamo felt compelled to come forward and report their concerns about prisoner abuse, and nobody seems to think it warrants any discussion. Members of the military deserve our honor and respect. And one of the ways we can show that is by paying attention when soldiers raise questions about the honor of the military. Even if we've learned to sleep at night despite the fact we have tortured, we should spare one toss or turn for those soldiers who cannot.

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