MER – The torture report and polarization in America

The torture report and polarization in AmericaThere is a polarizing debate taking place in the United States about the recently published Senate Select Committee on Intelligenceand#39s report on the CIA interrogation methods adopted after the 911 attacks. Predictably, the Democrats are praising this effort that proves the administration of former US President George W Bush legalized the use of torture and jeopardized the moral standing of the country in the world.

Most republicans, on the other hand, not only deny the accusation of torture but also blame the Democrats for denigrating the United States and putting the lives of those who serve the national security of the country in danger at a time when America is once against at war against jihadist terrorismIt is very telling that one prominent voice in the Republican camp takes exception to this criticism of Democrats. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam veteran who endured torture and was left permanently injured as a result, strongly supported the findings of the report and once again emphasized that the so-called andquotenhanced interrogation techniquesandquot amounted to torture.

He also made clear that torture is not only immoral and shameful but also counterproductive, since it fails to produce accurate information.It is on this last technical point that the polarizing national debate took a controversial turn, when CIA Director John Brennan gave a rare press briefing on Friday.

Before dealing with his remarks, it is important to note that in addition to proving that the US has indeed engaged in torture and that the CIA has misled Congress, one of the most important objectives of the report and its principal sponsor Senator Dianne Feinstein was to show that torture was ineffective. The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee had hoped that the report, with its copious footnotes from internal CIA communications and other research in the field, would establish as fact that torture does not work.

For instance, the report includes 20 case studies of interrogations that used torture and claims that in each case the accurate and valuable intelligence was produced thanks to conventional techniques rather than the use of torture.However, during most of last week, former CIA leaders and some Bush administration officials aggressively disputed this claim In its own response, the CIA insisted that information from the interrogations played a role in the hunt for Bin Laden.

Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, argued that andldquothe program was effective in getting information that led to the capture of additional senior operatives that stopped plots that would have killed Americans.andrdquo On Friday, during his much anticipated briefing, current CIA Director Brennan tried to present a more nuanced position, suggesting it was andldquounknowableandrdquo if enhanced interrogation techniques were the reason detainees later provided useful information.

At the end of the day, we may indeed never know if the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques did provided accurate and useful information. What is clearly knowable, however, is that the United States engaged in torture in the wake of the 911 terrorist attacks.

This proves that even the most democratic countries in the world lose their sense of morality, decency and legality when they come under attack. This whole episode of torture proves that tolerance is always the first victim when security is at stake.

On Sept. 11, 2001 America realized for the first time in its history that it is no longer protected by two oceans.

This new sense of vulnerability led to an unprecedented sense of panic. The fear was that a second attack was imminent.

And in the age of weapons of mass destruction, the real fear was nuclear, chemical or biological terrorism with a mushroom cloud over a major American city.This sense of panic is part of human nature.

It is this state of mind that not only legalized torture but also led to the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses and faulty intelligence. Today, more than a decade after 911, America is only slowly coming to terms with its mistakes.

But human nature is very hard to change. Only future panics will show if lessons are truly learned.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman