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The torture report – Why now?

December 9, 2014

When Senators  Feinstein and McCain decided to release the so-called torture report, they seemed to have a visceral need to so.

Certainly, from the perspective of over a decade since 9/11/01, the tactics described are disturbing, particularly for a country that portrays itself as the moral center of the world.

Missing from the speeches was a bit of context.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, every legislator and most of the U.S. population was asking the same question.

How in the hell did we have such poor intelligence that anyone could have lived illegally in the United States, learned to fly the jets well enough to crash them into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and by the grace of God and some very brave people, into a field in Shanksville, PA instead of the White House?

With the wonderful clarity of hindsight, it’s pretty obvious that we then went the whole mile to rectify that troublesome little intelligence failure, particularly in light of the fact that no one knew when or if there was another similar attack imminent.

So much for the history.

The question is, what is the point of releasing the report publicly?

By any standard of international law, the people who allegedly ordered and/or engaged in the “enhanced interrogation tactics” probably committed some form of war crime, although given the tendency of our politicians to disseminate half-truths, the public probably won’t know exactly which people did what things.

Any action on that would have to come from a war crimes tribunal, or the government would have arrest and prosecute all those people.

Unless the aim is to identify, arrest, prosecute and sentence the people involved, did the public release serve any purpose other than to assuage some legislator’s conscience?

By emphasizing that the CIA lied about the extent of the torture, those people who initially signed off on the operation can legitimately claim that if they had known about it, they would have shut it down.

If the idea was to somehow put the nation on a national guilt trip, it’s probably not going to work.

Even today, you won’t find very many people old enough to have watched the towers fall who really give a damn about whether some terrorist or accomplice was tortured.

Fourteen years later, the people who took down the towers in that unprovoked attack would do it again in a heartbeat if they could. They hated us then and they will hate us into eternity, so there isn’t an excess of empathy or understanding for them, not that either would change anything.

Releasing the report comes several years after the President outlawed the practices, so we aren’t stopping anything now.

The future will provide the answer as to the extent of the fallout from the release of the report.

Unless there is an Act II to this, it’s hard to understand what the release accomplished, other than to try to prove to the world that we do actually believe in the moral high ground we stand on.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s reason enough.

From → op-ed

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