Torture memos

The Obama administration released the Bush torture memos and they are exactly as morally repugnant as you might expect.  The moral failing and moral grotesqueness of the Bush administration is disgusting and pathetic.  As always, nobody covers this stuff better than Salon's Glenn Greenwald:

The ACLU has all four memos here.  This 46-page May 10, 2005 memo
(.pdf) from OLC Chief Steven Bradbury authorizes (under Constitutional
and international law) all of these tactics for any "high-value
detainees": nudity, "dietary manipulation" involving "minimum caloric
intake at commerical weight-loss programs," "corrective techniques"
(facial and abdominal slapping), water dousing, "walling," stress
positions and "wall standing" (to "induce muscle fatigue and the
attendent discomfort"), cramped confinement, and sleep deprivation.  It
also authorized "no more than two sessions" of waterboarding in "any
24-hour period."…

They explicitly recognized that the techniques they were authorizing
were ones that we condemned other countries for using — including as
"torture" — but nonetheless approved them, explicitly saying that the standards we impose on others do not bind us in any way:

I love this little bit of analysis from David Corn:

The memo did note that "the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat
of imminent death." But the OLC asserted that for this threat to be
equated with "severe mental pain or suffering" it must be
"prolonged"–meaning "lasting months or years." In other words, a
physical act producing that was like suffocation that could be
perceived as a "threat of imminent death" would not constitute

The legal reasoning behind all this is so patently and facially absurd that it seems there should be a strong case for prosecuting the government lawyers who wrote these memos.  And on that note, Andrew Sullivan:

That's why the internal OPR report on the legal professionalism of
the torture lawyers is so crucial and why it is being fought over so
fiercely. If Yoo and Bybee's memos were so below legal standards that
they can be objectively shown to be a means to get away with torture
rather than good faith effort to apply the law to proposed torture
techniques, then they too acted in bad faith. And they too are war

I do not believe that the focus should be on CIA
staffers. I never have. These war crimes should be traced directly to
those responsible: the men who made the decision to deploy torture as a
routine part of American government, and to turn America into an
international symbol that democracies, as well as autocracies and
dictatorships, can allow torture to be integrated into their identity
and legal system. This Bush and Cheney did. It affected America, but
one suspects that the period in which America told the world that
torture was fine, and even moral, will have consequences far and wide
for a long time to come.

Kevin Drum posted a visual excerpt (which I don't feel like copying) which concludes that this stuff is not really torture because, we're only doing what's necessary to get information from terrorists.   I'm not sure you can get more logically facile.  I'm sure Saddam Hussein thought he had good reasons for torturing his political enemies and I'm sure that's what they think in Iran's prisons, too.

Let's go back to Andrew Sullivan for the final word on this:

I do not believe that any American president has ever orchestrated,
constructed or so closely monitored the torture of other human beings
the way George W. Bush did. It is clear that it is pre-meditated; and
it is clear that the parsing of torture techniques that you read in the
report is a simply disgusting and repellent piece of dishonesty and bad
faith… Human beings were contorted into classic
stress positions used by the Gestapo; they had towels tied around their
necks in order to smash their bodies against walls; they were denied of
all sleep for up to eleven days and nights at a time; they were stuck
in tiny suffocating boxes; they were waterboarded just as the victims
of the Khmer Rouge were waterboarded. And through all this, Bush and
Cheney had lawyers prepared to write elaborate memos saying that all of
this was legal, constitutional, moral and not severe pain and

Bybee is not representing justice in this memo. He
is representing the president. And the president is seeking to commit
war crimes. And he succeeded. This much we now know beyond any
reasonable doubt. It is a very dark day for this country, but less dark
than every day since Cheney decided to turn the US into a torturing
country until now.

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