We Are the Dark Side

Alfred McCoy has released his new study of coercive interrogation and “no touch” torture: Torture and Impunity: the US Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation. McCoy provides a concise summary of his investigation in an essay on the indispensable TomDispatch in which he outlines the nasty pincer of impunity at home and rendition abroad. This led us to review the extraordinary 60 minutes interview between Lesley Stahl and José Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA Clandestine Service, and the chief executor for the regime of “enhanced” interrogation imposed during the years following 9/11.

The interview received scant attention at the time, and quickly disappeared into the media whirlwind of scandals and crisis, or was dismissed as nada de nuevo. The transcript makes for sobering reading, and reveals what Gitta Sereny would call a “corrupt personality”; corrupt as in broken, together. Even Lesley Stahl, well seasoned after decades of exposure to venality and corruption in every shape and measure, appears perplexed by the moral vacuity and lack of self-reflective conscience exhibited by Mr. Rodriguez. We have slightly edited and compressed excerpts from the transcript below:

The use of the word “qualm” in interesting in this context, as it descends from the Old English quealm, referring to disaster and plague. The conscience of the dark side qualmeth not. The dialogue goes on…

One might insist that “big boy pants” would rather mean adhering against all pressures to inalienable human rights, and insisting also on protocols of thorough verification for the “flood of intelligence”, most of which turned out to be waste water. Difficult to quibble, though, with a Man With No Qualms. And so the dialogue goes on…

We marvel at the ease with which Mr. Rodriguez articulates the distinction between “not hurting” and in the next breath “instilling a sense of hopelessness and despair”. We also note the instant and effortless elision of terrorist into detainee, as if the designation “terrorist” had been established as legitimate in each and every detention, a claim that we have since learned to be false.

Alfred McCoy (among others) has amply documented the severe damage done to victims of no touch torture; wounds to fundamental identity and to the invisible yet essential sense of self are in many ways far more cruel and damaging than wounds to the body. We read this interview and feel many qualms indeed: U pisciu puzza era capu.


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