By Jamal Kanj
I watched painfully former vice-president Dick Cheney on ‘Meet the Press’ programme trying to defend and redefine his role in the ‘authorised’ CIA torture. Whenever he was asked about a specific torture case, Cheney always referred back to the ‘tortured’ Americans who lost their lives in 9/11.
While the jury is still out on the real operatives behind 9/11, there is little to argue that more than 3,000 citizens lost their lives in one of the most heinous crimes in the 21st century. And Cheney is hiding behind those Americans to justify one of the most disgraceful sadistic abuses and complete disregard for human dignity in US history. America was duped into believing that torture saved life, when in fact America lost its humanity.
When asked how he could explain the report findings that ’25 per cent of the (tortured) detainees turned out to be innocent’, the former vice-president retorted, ‘I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective … It worked now for 13 years.’
Not surprisingly this is coming from an ungrateful person who is living on someone else’s borrowed heart. Larry King once asked him what he thought of his heart donor. He callously responded ‘I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.’
How could such a person be capable of caring or ‘wondering’ about the life of other Americans, but to exploit their suffering to advance his partners’ business in the oil and military industrial complex?
While he gabbled for half an hour, ‘Dick’ failed to cite one single case where torture had saved American life or thwarted a terrorist strike. Indeed, according to the US Senate report, ‘At no time did the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques lead to the collection of imminent threat intelligence, such as the hypothetical ‘ticking time bomb’ information that many believe was the justification for the use of these techniques.’
Regarding possible violations of US signed international human rights treaties, Cheney argued that ‘We got the authorization from the president and authorization from the Justice Department to go forward with the program.’ Other than providing broad statements, he never ventured into the legal precedents that made waterboarding, for instance, lawful under international law.
The Senate report, however, pointed to a legal memorandum drafted by the CIA’s Office of General Counsel on November 26, 2001 where it suggested that the ‘CIA could argue that the torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm’.
The footnote for that legal memo referenced an Israeli law which warrants that ‘torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm’.
The CIA didn’t just emulate Israel’s legal system to sanction torture, but it copied the same Israeli torture methods. For the reported CIA torture techniques had striking resemblance to what I personally heard from many Palestinian prisoners who were once held in Israeli dungeons. Torture methods that left behind no physical marks but intended to break captives by inducing extreme mental distress like painful ‘stress positions’, exposure to extreme cold, ‘Russian roulette’, sleep and sensory deprivation, etc.
The report did not mention any official Israeli role in devising the ‘enhanced technique’. Although, I dare to conjecture that Israeli consultants were on board to gobble some of the $81 million paid since 2006 to companies providing consulting services to CIA torturers.
Responding to the torture report, President Barack Obama declared ‘this isn’t who we are’. Well, this is certainly not respecting the human dignity of America’s founding fathers. It is, however, ‘who we are’ when the tail is wagging the dog: for Israel is making ‘US’ to become torturers and drone killers.
- Jamal Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes regular newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.)