Perhaps you are reading these documents alongside me. I've only read the Bybee memo, as chilling an artefact as you are ever likely to read in a democratic society, the work clearly not of a lawyer assessing torture techniques in good faith, but of an administration official tasked with finding how torture techniques already decided upon can be parsed in exquisitely disingenuous ways to fit the law, even when they clearly do not. This is what Hannah Arendt wrote of when she talked of the banality of evil.From The Banality of Evil
The president's statement that he does not seek to prosecute CIA staffers who tortured suspects believing in good faith that they had legal authority to do what they did is not quite as blanket as it sounds. If evidence emerges of bad faith in torture sessions, then those staffers may well face legal consequences. Ditto if the legal advice was given in bad faith, along Nuremberg lines, Yoo and Bybee should start sweating.From The Question Of Immunity
One thing is also increasingly clear from the torture memos: medical professionals were indeed present throughout the torture sessions, carefully monitoring and measuring the health and suffering of the torture victims. There is no conceivable way in which this is compatible with the Hippocratic oath, or with minimal standards of medical ethics.From The Doctors
This much we know: under Bush, the United States insisted that these principles did not apply to its own government. Our standards are now lower for the US than they were once for Nazi Germany.From The Nuremberg Principle
Greenwald points to this nugget:From We Are Now IndonesiaThey 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.And this is, in fact, the Bush-Cheney position. Because America did these things, they are not torture. This is also, by the way, the position of the news reporters and editors at the New York Times and the Washington Post. Does anyone believe that if Iran, say, captured an American soldier, kept him awake for eleven days straight, bashed his head and body against plywood walls with a towel around his neck, forced him to stand and sit in stress positions finessed by the Communist Chinese, stuck him in a dark coffin for hours, and then waterboarded him, that the NYT would describe him as a victim of "harsh interrogation techniques"?
And read his quotes from other commentary in the press and the blogosphere.
And if you really want to cry for this country, read Andrew's long analysis which includes:
Moreover, this was done by the professional classes in this society. It was not done by Lynndie England or some night-shift sadists at Abu Ghraib. According to these documents, almost nothing that was done at Abu Ghraib was outside the limits agreed to by Bush - and much of what was done at Abu Ghraib was mild in comparison. So when the president acted "shocked" at what we all saw, and said it was not America, he was also authorizing far worse in secret - and systematizing it long after Abu Ghraib was over. He was either therefore a fantastic liar on one of the gravest matters imaginable or so psychologically compartmentalized and prone to rigid denial of reality and so unversed in history, law and morality that he had no reason being president.From The Bigger Picture
If you want to know how democracies die, read these memos. Read how gifted professionals in the CIA were able to convince experienced doctors that what they were doing was ethical and legal. Read how American psychologists were able to find justifications for the imposition of psychological torture, and were able to analyze its effects without ever stopping and asking: what on earth are we doing?
Read how no one is even close to debating "ticking time bomb" scenarios as they strap people to boards and drown them until they break. Then read how they adjusted the waterboarding, for fear it was too much, for fear that they were actually in danger of suffocating their captives, and then read how they found self-described loopholes in the law to tell themselves that what the US had once prosecuted as torture could not possibly be torture because we're doing it, and we're different from the Viet Cong. We're doing torture right and for the right reasons and with the right motive. Many of the people who did this are mild, kind, courteous, family men and women, who somehow were able to defend slamming human beings against walls in the daytime while watching the Charlie Rose show over a glass of wine at night. We've seen this syndrome before, in other places and at other times. Yes: it can happen here. And imagine how this already functioning torture machine would have operated in the wake of another attack under a president Romney or Giuliani.
It is this professionalism and bureaucratic mastery that chills in the end.
In fact, you should read Andrew Sullivan regularly, including his "Mental Health breaks, which are truly necessary.
Read the rest!