Sunday, December 28, 2014

Dick Cheney and Torture

David Bromwich has a fine essay linking American acceptance of police brutality with acceptance of torture.  It is well worth reading.  I found the description of Dick Cheney's role in pushing the U.S. to torture to be spot on:
The US national security state is the lengthened shadow of Dick Cheney. He made himself a master of the levers of government when he was secretary of defence under George H.W. Bush. His sense of rightful authority will have been confirmed by his regular participation in the continuity-of-government exercises: a yearly ritual enactment of the government’s response to a national catastrophe, begun in the Reagan years and put aside under Clinton, in which the lives of important members of the government and military were preserved at a fortress hideaway, and a design was worked up and executed for a post-constitutional order. An account of these exercises is given in James Mann’s excellent Rise of the Vulcans (2004); a curious detail is that Cheney and his associate Donald Rumsfeld stayed on as participants even when they held no government office.
After the real catastrophe of September 2001, Cheney succeeded in changing America’s idea of itself. He did it with a tireless diligence of manipulation behind the scenes, commonly issuing his orders from a bunker underneath the Naval Observatory in Washington. The element of fear in Cheney is strong: a fact that is often lost in descriptions of him as an undiluted malignity. His words and actions testify to a personal fear so marked that it could project and engender collective fear.
Cheney worked hard to eradicate from the minds of Americans the idea that there can be such a thing as a ‘suspect’. Due process of law rests on the acknowledged possibility that a suspect may be innocent; but, for Cheney, a person interrogated on suspicion of terrorism is a terrorist. To elaborate a view beyond that point, as he sees it, only involves government in a wasteful tangle of doubts. Cheney concedes from time to time that mistakes can happen; but the leading quality of the man is a perfect freedom from remorse. ‘I’d do it again in a minute,’ he said recently of the plan for the interrogation programme and the secret prisons which the office of the vice president vetted and approved.
Cheney is a coward of the first-order.  His demand that the CIA torture highlights his inability to deal with the very, very small chance that we might be subject to another terrorist attack.  He, amongst all the cowards and chickenhawks in the Bush administration, was ready to put other peoples' lives at risk to try to attain the unattainable: total security.  His resort to torture marks an all-time low amongst American statesmen.  All Americans in uniform are more likely to face torture if captured because of him.

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