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Sadist In Chief

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Sadist In Chief
by Ken Sanders

In a staggering rebuke of the Bush administration 's we-can-do-whatever-we-want stance on the so-called war on terror, the U.S. Senate, led by Republican Senator John McCain, voted 90 to 9 in favor of an amendment to a $440 billion Pentagon spending bill, an amendment barring the use of torture by the U.S. military. Under the so-called McCain amendment, "cruel, inhuman or degrading " treatment of anyone in the custody of the U.S. military would strictly prohibited. Additionally, the amendment would require that interrogation of prisoners by the U.S. military follow the existing U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation (FM 34-52), which incorporates the 1949 Geneva Conventions ' prohibitions on torture and abuse.
Sounds reasonable enough. Then again, this is a faith-based administration, rooted in religion rather than reason. Hence, in response to the Senate 's belated attempt to reclaim a modicum of morality, as well as some of the power it so obsequiously ceded to Bush after 9/11, the Bush administration promised to veto the spending bill so as to retain its "legal " ability to torture whomever it wishes, whenever and wherever it wishes. The Bush administration reiterated its promise to veto any bill that "contained language that restricted the President's ability to effectively carry out the war on terrorism. " In other words, believing that torturing and abusing prisoners is necessary "to effectively carry out the war on terrorism, " Bush promises to deprive the Pentagon of $440 billion it presumably needs to fight Bush 's war on terror.
Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Clearly, Bush fervently believes that beating Iraq into a bloody pulp is necessary to his eternal war on terror. Nonetheless, like a petulant child, Bush seems perfectly willing to bankrupt the "central front " of his crusade if he doesn 't get to beat, sodomize, and kill those suspected of being, harboring, or eventually becoming terrorists. After all, what fun would a religious crusade be if torture weren 't allowed? Can you imagine the Spanish Inquisition without the rack or the lash?
Seriously, though, why does Bush insist on being able to torture and abuse prisoners in U.S. custody? Setting aside (for the moment) the possibility that he is an amoral sadist who, as demonstrated by his reign in Texas, derives a certain degree of pleasure presiding over the suffering of others, there must be a reason. Since torture is immoral by (almost) anyone 's standards, there must be a rational justification for deliberately inflicting excruciating pain and abject terror upon another human being. There must be a rational basis for systematically taking someone to the brink of death, only to revive him so that he may be taken to the brink again.
Is it because torture leads to reliable and actionable intelligence? No. It 's been repeatedly established that tortured subjects will say just about anything to stop the agony. Indeed, the Supreme Court has noted on several occasions that "a confession forced from the mind by flattery of hope, or by the torture of fear, comes in so questionable a shape ... that no credit ought to be given to it. " To that end, most interrogation experts, including many current and former members of the U.S. military and intelligence services, declare that torture does not lead to useful or reliable intelligence. It is, in other words, a waste of time.
Perhaps it 's to ensure the safety and humane treatment of American soldiers. No. America 's utilization of torture only increases the likelihood that Americans will be tortured themselves. This, of course, was the principle (as opposed to principled) objection raised by Colin Powell to the now-infamous "torture memos " which purported to provide legal justification for the Bush administration 's policy of torture and abuse.
Maybe it 's because torture is one of the many tools the U.S. needs to defeat terrorism. Couldn 't be. Terror (which torture most assuredly is) only begets more terror. Recall that the horrific beheading of Nicholas Berg was in specific response to the revelations about Abu Ghraib. Moreover, again following the release of the Abu Ghraib photos, innumerable Iraqis joined the insurgency to drive the U.S. out of their country.
Which brings us back to the possibility that Bush and his accomplices are sadists who simply like the idea of inflicting great pain on Muslim "barbarians. " There being no legitimate rational (much less moral) justification for torturing other human beings, the only other conclusion to draw is that Bush & Co. just enjoy deliberately and systematically harming others. If, while in the throes of agony and fear, they happen to scream or sob something conceivably useful, so much the better.
Bush and those like the nine senators who voted against the McCain amendment, don 't have a problem with torturing Muslims for much the same reason Nazis didn 't have a problem exterminating Jews and gypsies, or why whites in America felt fully justified in enslaving and lynching blacks. Bush and his pro-torture apologists don 't see Muslims or Arabs as being fully human. To the administration and its loyalists, Muslims are lower than animals. They are mere objects, devoid of value, unworthy of compassion. Having thus dehumanized those in the custody of the U.S. (and its "extreme rendition " proxies), Bush & Co. have no qualms about torturing them, "disappearing " them, or kenneling them indefinitely and without charge.
This dehumanization by Bush and his posse of vigilantes is only confirmed by the fact that many, if not most, of those in U.S. custody have no ties to terrorism. The alleged terrorists sit uncharged in cages across the globe because there is nothing to charge them with. They sit caged indefinitely without access to legal counsel because they are not deemed worthy of such trappings of civilization. Then, reluctantly, the U.S. releases those from whom it was unable to extract confessions or legitimate intelligence. Just as reluctantly, the U.S. releases the vast majority of those it held incommunicado and without charge, silently acknowledging that there was never anything to charge them with. In other words, other than the fact the detainees were Muslim, there was never any reason to detain and torture them in the first place. For Bush & Co., that the detainees were Muslim was reason enough to abduct and torture them.
The fact that the Bush administration abducts, "disappears, " and tortures so many suspected terrorists, only to subsequently release most of them, further demonstrates the irrationality of the Bush administration 's pro-torture policy. Those subjected to torture by American hands are far more likely to become terrorists as a result of their inhumane ordeal. In other words, Bush 's policy of torture breeds far more terrorists than it kills.
In sum, torture does not lead to reliable intelligence. Torture by Americans only ensures that captured Americans will be tortured themselves. Furthermore, torture, a very personal form of terror, only breeds terrorists. Thus, there is no rational (much less moral) justification for torture.
Inasmuch as torture is an utterly irrational choice, as well as completely immoral, it is baffling to anyone not given to sadism that Bush would be so opposed to the McCain amendment. It is even more baffling considering that the McCain amendment still permits the CIA and American "contractors " to torture at will. The McCain amendment would basically reestablish the policies that existed in the 1980s and 90s in Latin America - the CIA could torture with impunity, while the U.S. military watched from the sidelines.
One would think that Bush would be politically savvy enough to embrace McCain 's commendable but woefully insufficient prohibition against torture. One would think Bush would be sinister enough to "ban " torture without really banning it at all. One would think he would seize the opportunity to have his cake and eat it, too.
Thankfully, Bush isn 't that smart or clever. If he was and embraced the McCain amendment, most Americans would let out a sigh of relief that an ugly chapter of American history was finally closed. They would refocus their attention on the break-up of Nick and Jessica, or on Lindsay 's driving troubles. They would forget about and ignore the torture committed in their names, but no longer committed by the U.S. military.
Not directly, anyway.


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Ken Sanders is a lawyer and writer in Tucson, Arizona. His publishing credits include Op Ed News, Z Magazine, Democratic Underground, Dissident Voice, and Common Dreams. More of his writing can be found on his weblog at (more...)

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