Torture Pangs

IMAGE SOURCE: The Atlantic

IMAGE SOURCE: The Atlantic

by Cheri RobertsChallenging the RhetoricThe Guerilla Media Network

Tuesday’s Senate Torture Report alludes former President, George W. Bush, wasn’t in the know; that he had been “insulated” from the unsavory details of his own torture program. Interestingly, his good pal, Karl Rove went on the record Sunday saying he was in fact “fully briefed” stating,

He [Bush] was briefed and intimately involved in the decision.”

In a 2010 UK telegraph article, when Bush was asked  if he authorized waterboarding to gain information specifically from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the captured al-Qaeda leader, he responded,

Damn right!”

Former Vice President Cheney say’s the Senate’s report and the accusations are a bunch of bull and he would do it all over again.

Crime, Punishment and Puppet Theater

Congress doesn’t seem interested in pushing for prosecutions and Tribunals can be little more than impotent theater. Just today Salon reports that George W. Bush and Tony Blaire have been found guilty of war crimes over the Iraq war by a Malaysian Tribunal,

The tribunal ruled that Bush and Blair’s name should be entered in a register of war criminals, urged that they be recognized as such under the Rome Statute, and will also petition the International Criminal Court to proceed with binding charges. Such efforts are likely to be futile, but one Malaysian lawyer explained the motives of the tribunal to The Associated Press: “For these people who have been immune from prosecution, we want to put them on trial in this forum to prove that they committed war crimes.” In other words, because their own nations refuse to hold them accountable and can use their power to prevent international bodies from doing so, the tribunal wanted at least formal legal recognition of these war crimes to be recorded and the evidence of their guilt assembled. That’s the same reason a separate panel of this tribunal will hold hearings later this year on charges of torture against Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others.

Next year Malaysia plans to conduct another Tribunal on America’s torture crimes.

Will anything come of the Malaysian Tribunal’s findings? Unlikely. Will anyone go to jail? Probably not.

Even the International Criminal Court (ICC) is hem-hawing over what — if anything, they would [not could, because they could] do  now that the Torture Report and further declassifications have been made public. The ICC says it is hesitant to prosecute the Bush Regime for what it could mean internationally stating,

“ … the legitimacy of the court depends on it reaching a point where it treats countries alike. The court is in a very difficult position on this.”

Huh? It’s an “International” criminal court isn’t it?

Would the ICC hesitate if we were discussing crimes by leaders in other countries? Probably not, so why such a dilemma when it comes to the U.S. and the U.K.? There are reportedly 122 countries that have the ICC authority to prosecute and none of them seem willing to stand-up to the Big Bully U.S.A.

D.C. Attorney and national security expert, Mark Zaid says Tribunals can do good citing the Yugoslavian and Rwandan tribunals as successes. But he cautions Tribunals are,

” … only as good as the authorities and enforcement powers they are given.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who supported the release of the Senate panel’s report said,

Speaking as a former prosecutor, I think it’s very difficult to make a case against someone who is following the advice of the Justice Department, even if the legal advice was flawed.”

Zaid points out this argument was  “rejected at Nuremberg” and adds regarding any prosecutions,

It’s not going to happen. The White House doesn’t want it. The DoJ refuses to pursue it. Congress is turning a blind eye.”

Twisted Minds

In a VICE news report, journalist Jason Leopold, interviews James Mitchell, a retired Air Force Psychologist who was identified as the so-called, “architect” of America’s torture program; a program whose main activity has been relegated to being called, enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT’s) to minimize the sting. Mitchell and former colleague, Dr. Bruce Jessen — another retired Air Force Psychologist, are mentioned in the Senate report under the pseudonyms, Grayson Swigert (Mitchell) and Hammond Dunbar (Jessen).

In the piece, Mitchell admits,

Yes, I waterboarded KSM [Khalid Sheikh  Mohammed]. I was part of a larger team that waterboarded a small number of detainees.”

Leopold reports that the majority of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program personnel were provided through Mitchell Jessen & Associates, i.e. the “team”. Mitchell said the whole point of waterboarding was to “induce fear and panic” and he acknowledged,

There were some abuses that occurred.” [at the black sites]

In a related story, Monday court officials in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba canceled a two-day pretrial hearing for suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; including Khalid Sheikh  Mohammed. Mohammed was not only subjected to waterboarding, or simulated drowning, he was also subjected to “rectal hydration” and sleep deprivation according to the Senate’s Torture Report. No reason was cited for the Court’s cancellation.

Mitchell says he and Jessen are the interrogators identified in the Senate Report as those who raised concerns about “abuses” and techniques unauthorized by the Department of Justice (DoJ). Mitchell says he reported these abuses to the CIA’s Inspector General.

The question begs, did Mitchell and Jessen continue to participate in torture or EIT’s after they first had and then raised concerns and or reported the abuses? Were the rest of the Mitchell Jessen “associates” continuing the EIT practices in spite of these concerns?

In the article, Mitchell makes a plea for compassion from the American people,

I would like the American people to look at this from my perspective. At a time when America was under attack, I was asked to take on a task that could potentially save thousands of lives. I was briefed about pending attacks in the wake of 9/11, I was told that [President George W. Bush] had authorized my action, I was told that the highest law enforcement office on the land had judged those actions to be legal, I was told that the intelligence committees in Congress had been briefed. The interrogations I engaged in were monitored in real-time by medial personnel and leadership who could have stopped what I was doing at any time. I was never told I was doing anything outside of authorities. I was told for years that my activities had saved lives and prevented attacks. And now I’m being denigrated by some of the very people who pushed me to use harsher measures.”

Mitchell is clearly deflecting responsibility for his actions claiming, “they told me to” as his excuse.  One can understand bosses orders are bosses orders, but no orders should ever take precedence over what is right and what is wrong. What’s more mind boggling is the fact Mitchell [and Jessen] are Psychologists. Deploying the sort of sadistic measures they, and their “team”, willingly inflicted on detainees is quite telling for men of their profession who swore to “first do no harm”. Another doctor, Hitler’s Josef Mengele, had a similar professional conflict of interest in his day.

If Mitchell’s boss told him to jump off a bridge, would he have? Probably not and there in lies the real issue at hand with his claim of innocence of any wrong-doing. Mitchell made a conscious decision to not only follow orders by repeatedly executing the “enhanced interrogation techniques”, but he also took part in creating the means of torture themselves.


Ironically, the American Psychological Association (APA) is also undertaking a review that questions their long-time support of what were initially “Bush’s” torture practices and policies. The report is projected to come out sometime in the first quarter of 2015. The review was brought on, in part, due to claims made in the book, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War“ by Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, James Risen, of the NY Times.

The APA first refuted Risen’s claims in a statement on October 16 however; in more recent statements on their website the APA now says,

We believe that APA’s October 16th statement refuting Risen’s assertion was a fair and accurate response. However, the allegation made by Mr. Risen is highly charged and very serious. His book has created confusion for the public and APA members. This confusion, coupled with the seriousness of the allegation, requires a definitive, independent and objective review of the allegation and all relevant evidence.Toward that end, and to fulfill its values of transparency and integrity, the APA Board has authorized the engagement of David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin to conduct an independent review of whether there is any factual support for the assertion that APA engaged in activity that would constitute collusion with the Bush administration to promote, support or facilitate the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques by the United States in the war on terror.

APA President Dr. Nadine Kaslow, the 2015 President- Elect Dr. Susan McDaniel and APA CEO, Dr. Norman Anderson, are “coordinating the independent review” and will be assisted by APA General Counsel Nathalie Gilfoyle. It is worth wondering how those whose mandates are now in question can “coordinate an independent review”.

The hubris and rhetoric coming from those intimately involved in the EIT Program — then and now, is no small thing however, it seems more people are inclined to turn a seeing, but shamed eye while impotently hoping the program and practices are over, or that they can at least pretend that they are.


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Please also read other articles published by Cheri Roberts

3 responses to “Torture Pangs

  1. Pingback: LIAR OF THE WEEK: James Mitchell the Torture Architect | Challenging the Rhetoric·

  2. Pingback: Federal Judge Orders Trove of Detainee Torture Photos be Released | Challenging the Rhetoric·

  3. Pingback: The American Psychological Association Finally Says No to Torture While UK Spy Org GCHQs JTRIG Unit and US Government Still Says Yes | Challenging the Rhetoric·

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