Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Torture Memos

I read them. All of them. I screamed at the screen and my notes are filled with quotations from the memos followed by insults in all caps. Trend noted on my Facebook page: "Welcome to how I feel."

Of course we all knew that horrible things were done with the express permission of the Bush legal team. But it doesn't make reading it in self-righteous bureaucratese any easier.

I wrote about it over at GlobalComment.

“Shocks the conscience.”

That’s the test that Steven G. Bradbury, acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel in Bush’s Justice department used to decide whether or not an “enhanced interrogation technique” was torture. I won’t be the only one to suggest, after reading three memos by Bradbury and one by now-Federal Judge Jay Bybee, that perhaps Bradbury doesn’t have much of a conscience to be shocked...

In all of the memos, the description of waterboarding is chilling in its deliberate, specific confidence. The assurances that you can’t use the techniques on United States citizens just reminds me that in war, it’s all about Othering the opponent.

As long as it’s not you, it’s OK. When you read the calm descriptions of the techniques, you realize that the people writing the memos are supremely confident that these techniques will never be applied to them. They won’t. They may well be applied to our troops captured in battle, with the justification that we did it first, but Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury will never be waterboarded, never be deprived of sleep for days...

The first Bradbury memo notes that, “Both KSM and Zubaydah had ‘expressed their belief that the general US population was ‘weak’, lacked resilience, and would be unable to ‘do what was necessary’ to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals.’” With this one sentence, the entire memo takes on a whole new meaning—as if the “enhanced interrogation techniques” are suddenly less about gaining actionable intelligence and more about one giant pissing contest between the U.S. and the “terrorists.”...

You can read my whole piece here. You can also read the memos in their entirety, with very little redacted, here. This was, as Greenwald noted, a win for civil liberties.