2003, Afghanistan: Goat herder and livestock trader Kakai Khan was arrested by coalition forces and detained on suspicion of planting bombs that destroyed a couple of video stores. Unverified hearsay and rumor, i.e. human intelligence (HUMINT), indicated that Khan was a member of the Taliban counter-insurgency. He was taken to Bagram Air Base and interrogated.
“They took me to interrogation many times. I don’t remember how many times. They beat me a lot during interrogations,” Khan said to investigators. “One of the punishments during interrogation was that they would take me to a room next door, and two soldiers would lift me in the air and shackle my hands to the ceiling. My feet could not touch the ground, I don’t know how long I was up there. I would lose consciousness.”
Eventually he was shipped off to Guantanamo Bay for more advanced interrogation. He spent three years there and then in 2006 he was released. No conviction, no explanation, no apology. The CIA put him on a plane back to Afghanistan and let him go.
Neither the Army or the CIA refute Khan's claim - well, the Army spokesman refuted it, but an Army investigation substantiated in large part Khan's statement. The CIA is mute, as usual.
Is Khan's case an aberration? A breakdown in the system, perpetuated by a handful of unsupervised and poorly trained US Army reservists out of their depth in a hostile land, like those at Abu Garrib?
No, it is not.
Khan's case is similar to hundreds of others. The US Army's own investigation of the interrogations at Bagram resulted in a 2,000 page report, obtained by the New York Times in 2005. That report, again compiled by the Army itself not the liberal press, reported widespread, systematic abuse of prisoners far beyond the bounds of the Army Interrogation Manual, US Military Law, and the Geneva Conventions. Despite the fact that nearly 30 US Military personal were charged with criminal abuse of prisoners the abuse continued and continues to this day. Right now, even as you read this.
I've said it before, more than once and in more than one place: No matter what euphemism you use, no matter how you justify it, no matter what your rationalization, no matter the righteousness of your cause, no matter how pious your belief, no matter how much you've been wronged - the end does not justify the means. If you torture people, you are a torturer. You. Are. A. Torturer. You live in a nation that tortures people.
Torturers, that is what we've become - and make no mistake, when you chain a man to the ceiling so that his feet dangle above the floor and the shackles bite into his flesh until the blood runs, and you kick him when he is bound helpless on the wet floor of his cell in a puddle of his own shit and piss, when you cover his head in a plastic garbage bag and shove his head under water under until he drowns, you are committing torture.
Normal men cannot do this. To become a torturer you must first kill your humanity, you must kill pity and empathy. You must root out all shreds of honor, duty, courage, decency, shame, and humanity. You must steel your soul in order to regard other human beings as objects, as less than animals, as evil incarnate and beneath contempt. You must regard yourself as the avenger, the destroyer, and the mighty and the righteous with unlimited power over the contemptible creature before you. You must become God.
We've seen this before, in SS Death Camps, in Japanese POW Camps, in Korea, in Laos, in Vietnam, in Saddam's prisons and among the Taliban - we know what torture does to men. It is a cancer, a rot, that will spread until it destroys not the enemy, but the torturers themselves. The torturers cannot return to normal society, they are no longer men - but rather something dark and dangerous and beyond the pale.
Right now, this evil malignancy is confined to a small few - but like any cancer allow it to grow unchecked, allow it to prosper and take root, and it will destroy us all.
In the last post I expounded on why I think the writ of habeas corpus is so damned important. If you can't see why we must extend the rights of challenge and appeal to our enemies, not for their sake but for ours, then you are blind.
If you cannot see the abyss that yawns before us, you are a fool.