Reactions to the release of the long-awaited Torture Report (or at least its executive summary) are extensively documented elsewhere. Having spent countless hours over the past three years investigating various dimensions within the lengthy and extensive history of American torture, we offer a few remarks:
1. Much of the discussion appears to accept a false premiss that the torture techniques documented in the report constitute some sort of historical aberration resulting from the panic and chaos of 9/11. This is very definitely not the case. Alfred McCoy has researched the deeper (and darker) history in meticulous detail, most recently in Torture and Impunity.
Beyond the actions of the CIA, many of these techniques (such as stress positions and sexual humiliation) have been widely used throughout American history against Native Americans, slaves, incarcerated prisoners and political dissidents. Further, our history of torture certainly does not end with the human species; indeed, many of the techniques described in the report derive from behavioral experiments conducted on dogs and other animals.
2. The discussion has also assumed a tone that suggests that torture in the United States has been eradicated through the waving of some magic Presidential wand. This is, alas, another self-serving delusion. As Rebecca Gordon so brilliantly recounts in her recent book Mainstreaming Torture, such practices have become so widespread one might conclude they have become part of our “national DNA”.
As Gordon points out on her own blog:
3. We also take note of the constant refrain, from the oval office and elsewhere, that while those who implemented this brutal regime of torture may have made mistakes under desperate circumstances, they are nonetheless to be honored as patriots. Such claims are false and deceptive. The only patriots in this wretched story are those few who courageously refused to participate in these illegal and abhorrent practices.
Returning to Rebecca Gordon, in her essay for TomDispatch:
Finally, a poem has just been brought to our attention, as published on the Guardian website from Iraq veteran Brian Turner: