Torture: A Battle for the Country’s Soul

September 11th was a sea change. Everybody says everything changed after that. And it did, but I think one of the most important changes that the country hasn’t really thought about is America became a country that, for the first time in its history, endorsed what is torture in all but name. And since then, it changed, I think, from a war for the country’s security, the war on terror, to a battle for the country’s soul.

From: Democracy Now!

The Dark Side: Jane Mayer on the Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

We spend the hour with New Yorker magazine investigative journalist Jane Mayer about her new book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. In the book, Mayer reveals a secret report by the International Red Cross warned the Bush administration last year that the CIA’s treatment of prisoners categorically constituted torture and could make Bush administration officials who approved the torture methods guilty of war crimes. Mayer also reveals that the Bush administration ignored warnings from the CIA six years ago that up to a third of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake.

[…]

The name of Mayer’s book comes from a comment made by Vice President Dick Cheney on Meet the Press shortly after the September 11th attacks.

    VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: We have to work the dark side, if you will. We’re going to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies.

[…]

JANE MAYER: Well, Abu Zubaydah, in particular, who he cites in that speech, he says that he stopped talking, and that’s when they went to what they call the “enhanced” interrogation techniques. That’s not what the FBI says. The FBI says that when they just tried to talk to him in a sort of rapport-building kind of way, he gave them the best information that they got out of this.

And, in fact, after—there was a custody fight about who was going to get to interrogate him. The CIA wanted him, and the CIA invented a whole new way of interrogating him. They took him off and put him through all kinds of things, including this dog cage that he was locked up in, he describes as being covered with towels. He could barely breathe. He was in there for something like twenty-four hours. His wounds from when he was captured were reopened. He was waterboarded repeatedly.

What did he tell them? He told them, you know, all kinds of things. I mean, the truth is that if you go carefully over what you can piece together of our interrogation program, you can find that these detainees have, almost to a man, recanted later and said that half of what they told people was just made up, fabricated.

[…]

JANE MAYER: Well, as we all know, September 11th was a sea change. Everybody says everything changed after that. And it did, but I think one of the most important changes that the country hasn’t really thought about is America became a country that, for the first time in its history, endorsed what is torture in all but name. And since then, it changed, I think, from a war for the country’s security, the war on terror, to a battle for the country’s soul. And we have to really think about whether or not this is what kind of country we want to be.

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