I confess, in some ways I’ve been a bad political blogger. There are some stories I neglect to cover because, to be honest, I’m just worn out. There are some subjects I’m tired of writing about because it feels like shouting into the wind. I’ve been writing about the torture issue for two years, on this blog and in other places, and I’m getting to a point where I just about can’t do it anymore. I’m tired. So when I read the news story that came out Sunday — about the wrongful imprisonment and torture of some German guy who turned out not to be a terrorist (surprise, surprise) by the CIA — I let it slip by without comment.
Khaled el-Masri, who is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, said he was arrested while attempting to enter Macedonia for a holiday trip and flown to Afghanistan. During five months in captivity he was subjected to “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” says a lawsuit he filed in U.S. District Court in suburban Alexandria, Virginia.
The suit names as the main defendant former CIA Director George Tenet. In addition to torture, he claims his due process rights were violated and that he was subjected to “prolonged, arbitrary detention.” He is seeking damages of at least $75,000.
“I am asking the American government to admit its mistakes and to apologize for my treatment,” el-Masri said in a statement. “Throughout my time in the prison, I asked to be brought before a court but was refused. Now I am hoping that an American court will say very clearly that what happened to me was illegal and cannot be done to others.”
The CIA rendition program, in which terror suspects are captured and taken to foreign countries for interrogation, has been heavily criticized by human rights groups.
I’ve blogged about extraordinary rendition before. To the point that I’m no longer even sure what can be said about that hasn’t already been said. Nor am I sure anymore that anything that’s said about it makes a damn bit of difference beyond merely documenting the atrocities for anyone who may bother to seek out the information. The reality is that it happens, and it will continue to happen; in our names, on our dime. It doesn’t even appear to matter whether a majority back the use of torture or not.
I’m not anything that’s said or done on the issue is going to stop the powers that be from employing it, or prevent the inevitable blowback and consequences from its use. And it doesn’t matter because 51% of the country put them back in power knowing that stuff just like this would happen. So it must be what most of us want, because how do you embrace a course of action without also embracing the potential consequences when the potential consequences are known? How can it be otherwise when up to 90% of prisoners in the “war on terror” are mistakenly imprisoned, something we’ve known since May of 2004?
The only thing that remotely raises my pulse on the issue is when I hear people like Condoleeza Rice call cases like the one mentioned above mistakes.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a rare concession to U.S. critics, acknowledged on Tuesday that Washington may make mistakes in its battle against terrorism and promised to put them right if they happened.
But she restated her defense of the legality of U.S. tactics against a militant enemy which “operates from within our society and is intent… on killing innocent civilians”.
“Any policy will sometimes result in errors, and when it happens, we will do everything we can to rectify it,” Rice said at the start of a European tour overshadowed by allegations of illegal CIA methods against terrorist suspects.
Speaking in Berlin, she declined to comment on the case of a German man, Khaled el-Masri, who was allegedly abducted to Afghanistan and imprisoned there for five months last year until the CIA realized it had got the wrong man.
Godammit Condi, enough already. Just say it. This is what you, and a whole lot of people want, or at the very least intend. This case is not a mistake. It’s exactly what you and yours intended when you decided to give Torquemada a run for his money. It’s what the Bush intended. It’s what Gonzalez intended. It’s what Rumsfeld intended. It’s what 51% of voting Americans intended (if election results are to be believed) when they returned to power the same bunch that brought us Abu Ghraib and more.
And how exactly do we “rectify” this? You can’t undo torture any more than you can resurrect someone who dies from it (and who may well be among the wrongfully imprisoned 90%) and at best you can maybe pay off the victims and their families. But beyond that?
Again, I’m whistling into the wind here. Reading the news of this latest case, just reinforces something I’ve thought for a while now. Part of the intent whole justification and execution of the Iraq war and the broader war on terror has been to send a clear message to the world about the new norm.
The trial run is to try and establish what the U.S. calls a “new norm” in international relations. The new norm is “preventive war” (notice that new norms are established only by the United States). So, for example, when India invaded East Pakistan to terminate horrendous massacres, it did not establish a new norm of humanitarian intervention, because India is the wrong country, and besides, the U.S. was strenuously opposed to that action.
… The doctrine of preventive war is totally different; it holds that the United States – alone, since nobody else has this right – has the right to attack any country that it claims to be a potential challenge to it. So if the United States claims, on whatever grounds, that someone may sometime threaten it, then it can attack them.
We, the United States, will impose our will on the world by force. Iraq is one example, and is a message to nations that dare oppose our will. (And a message to their leaders too, since Saddam was okie doke by us even while he was killing and gassing his own people, until he went off the reservation and into Kuwait.) Torture is a much more personal message: this is what we’re willing to do to people who aren’t actually guilty of anything — oppose us and imagine what we will do to you and yours.
And really, in the long view of history — given the number of torturous leaders we’ve supported and allied with in the past and the present so long as they obediently support U.S. interests, the only difference is that we’re getting our own hands just a little dirtier than we have in the past. And we’ll go right on doing it. There’s nothing to stop us. Not even our own will.
So, I’m tired of talking about torture. It’s depressing and it doesn’t do a damn bit of good towards changing anything. Call it “outrage fatigue,” because maybe that’s what it is. Regardless, chances are I’ll be right back here blogging when (not if) the next torture-related story emerges. But in the back of my mind, I’ll be thinking “Why bother?”