By the twitching of our thumbscrews, something wicked this way comes


by Richard Broderick | April 20, 2009 • With the release of secret Bush torture memos and reports, only the extent and brutality of what the Bush Administration ordered comes as a shock, though as little more than a mild one.

Yes, we knew they were up to no good, twisted little souls who pumped up their pathetic egos by inflicting pain on those in no position to retaliate. Bush, Cheney, Addington, Rumsfeld, Feith, Bybee, Yoo, Rice, et al, are charged, charged utterly, a terrible savagery is born.

But there are a few important points that must be reiterated here, before the moment passes and the Obama Administration has waffled us out of any real accounting.

1. Torture under the Bush Administration was a bi-partisan policy. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Jane Harmon and a host of other Democratic leaders knew about, perhaps even in detail, what was being done, and kept their mouths shut, which is to say, offered tacit approval, not just for torture but for the whole array of illegal behavior under Bush (click on Congressional Quarterly for just one example of how our Democratic Congress members have been discharging their patriotic duties; meanwhile, though I rarely find myself in agreement with Republican Senators, they have a point here, don’t they?). Having failed either to provide oversight or to uphold their oath to the Constitution, many need to be impeached and driven from office, if not prosecuted for their roles in what amounted to a criminal conspiracy.

2. Torture as official U.S. policy may have reached new heights under George W. Bush but it certainly did not begin with George W. Bush and is not likely to end with George W. Bush either. Torture – under the guise of interrogation or punishment – has been practiced by agents of the federal government going back to the Indian Wars. It flourished during this country’s imperial conquest of the Philippines, was inflicted on citizens of Central American countries like Nicaragua and Honduras during the 20s and 30s, and Vietnamese detainees in the 60s and 70s. Furthermore, the U.S. has been an active recruiter and teacher of torture to the intelligence agencies of a number of Latin America’s most repressive regimes. This country also continues to fund and provide political cover for the death squads and brutalization of detainees carried out by the state of Israel. Indeed, in a nice little piece of toxic symbiosis, some of the culturally-specific techniques for degrading Arab prisoners were passed along to us by the Israelis, who have spent 60 years perfecting these monstrous practices.

3. As I have argued on this site in the past, the Bush decision to essentially legalize torture was not a reaction to, but an exploitation of, 9/11 just as that event was used as a pretext for pursuing a host of other pre-determined Administration goals, like making war on Iraq and Iran, trampling civil liberties, and spying illegally on Americans. Many of the principal villains in this drama are, after all, members of the Federalist Society, a neo-fascist organization made up of attorneys who, among other things, call for overturning Supreme Court decisions like those mandating Miranda warnings and the exclusion of evidence gained by force (read, beatings and torture). Such decisions by “activist judges” these FS lawyers argue, have led to the legal system “coddling criminals,” meaning anyone placed under arrest, especially if the individuals involved are members of a minority.

I’m not going to waste my breath arguing that the Obama Administration must uphold its constitutional duty to enforce the law, including federal statutes passed in the mid-1990s making the death of a detainee during torture a capital offense or that failure to enforce those laws is itself a crime.

Suffice it to say that the torture memos simply confirm that ours is a rogue nation whose warped sense of exceptionalism poses as great a threat to the world as Germany’s prior to the end of World War. Only the self-deluded can continue to believe that we will curb ourselves voluntarily. Furthermore, the memos, and the whole sorry record of the past 30 odd years in this country also confirms that, truly, on a national scale the only difference between the two parties is that the GOP stands for rapacious capitalism at home and brutal hegemony abroad while the Democratic Party stands for rapacious capitalism at home and brutal hegemony abroad, but with a human face.

In any case, the only people we might be fooling now — is ourselves.