In the July issue of Harper's Magazine, Luke Mitchell has an article on the ongoing practices of torture, perpetrated by our government at Guantanamo and elsewhere.
The United States has always used torture, though it was officially acknowledged to be illegal, and the practice was hidden from the public. For deniability, we developed techniques that would leave no scars, and we exported the dirty work to Latin America and Asia.
With the Bush regime, torture was mainstreamed, acknowledged to the public, legitimized by "tortured" legal opinions from the White House Office of Legal Counsel.
Mitchell argues that we cannot go back to the hypocrisy of the past. Pandora's box is open, and the monster is out. This is a crucial time when we must either end our government's practice of torture or
It is this very openness that suggests why this new age - let's call it the era of legitimized torture - is so perilous, not just to the men who are tortured but to liberal democracy. The moment is rapidly approaching when President Obama will cease to be the inheritor of a criminal regime and instead become its primary controlling authority, when the ongoing war crimes will attach themselves to his administration. And when they do attach themselves, Obama's administration will be forced to defend itself, as all administrations do. And it will defend itself by claiming that what we call crimes are not in fact crimes.
This process has already begun. Rather than end illegal torture, we are now solidifying the steps that we have taken to make these activities legal. By failing to change the underlying problem even as we celebrate its supposed "solution,", we actually further entrench the past, the "bad" Bush era, into the present, the "good" Obama era. We will return to the rule of law, but within that rule will remain a rule of torture, given all the greater authority by our love of the new regime.
Much of the remainder of the article documents the torture that has taken place and continues to take place at Guantanamo. We are using the same techniques that we denounced when practiced by Asian regimes during the Second World War.
What was torture at the black sites remains torture today at Guantanamo. It is perhaps ironic that what began as a method for making men talk - in fact, as we are now learning, in order to make them lie, about ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq - is now a method of preventing men from "talking," of preventing them from registering protest at the injustice of their condition. ...
We have seen too much in the past eight years to pretend any longer that the United States is incapable of criminal abuse or to trust the "experts" to act secretly in what they believe, sincerely or not, to be our best interests. We have seen too much to permit ourselves the luxury of ambivalence. Indeed, now that we have seen what our nation has done in the depths of a panic, we should also be able to recognize the larger, longer-term crimes of our leaders. We have for many years imprisoned a greater proportion of our own people than any other nation on earth, kept many of those prisoners in the kind of prolonged solitary confinement that is shown in study after study to drive people insane, and con=untenanced the rape of those who aren't in solitary confinement as part of a system of "rough justice." We have known this about ourselves for a very long time and done nothing.
Now we have a choice...