Friday, April 17, 2009

Inside Steve Bradbury's Crime Against Humanity

Tonight, I was reading in one of the recently released torture memos, the May 10, 2005 memo from Steven Bradbury to John Rizzo, Deputy General Counsel of the CIA entitled "Techniques That May Be Used in the Interrogation of High Value Detainees."

I'm not a lawyer but it seems obvious that Bradbury's memo is itself a crime against humanity in that it authorizes waterboarding, hosing people down, sleep deprivation, stress positions, enclosed spaces, and other forms of torture for suspected terrorists.

According to Bradbury, Congress defines torture in this manner:

In defining the federal crime of'torture, Congress required that a defendant "intend to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering," and Congress narrowly defined "severe mental pain or suffering" to mean "the prolonged mental harm caused by" enumerated predicate acts, including "the threat of imminent death" and "procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality."

Torture is also listed as a "crime against humanity" under Article 7(1) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In this sense, Bradbury's memo would be a crime against humanity because it authorizes and justifies the use of practices that fall under the legal definition of torture.

As Bradbury describes them within the memo, the CIA's "intensive" interrogations obviously fall within the definition of torture as "inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering" on suspected terrorists. Despite Bradbury's arguments to the contrary, causing "severe mental pain or suffering" is the manifest intent of all those interrogation techniques.

Two points.

What I found chilling about Bradbury's justifications of these techniques is that they took the reader "inside" the carrying out of American war crimes. There was a tremendous amount of detail about how Americans tortured prisoners and almost no balancing information about the background of 9-11, the need for information, or any information actually obtained from the prisoners. It was all war crimes all the time.

The second point is that the entire rhetorical force of Bradbury's document was geared toward creating sympathy for the torturers. In this sense, Bradbury's memo was equivalent of an insider's "how to" manual for mob hits, drug murders, lynchings, and other heinous crimes in that it sought to get the reader to identify with extremely horrible acts.

As a result, Bradbury's whole document conveyed a fetid, rotting sensation of trafficking in sweat, pain, and despair. I have to admit that I'm not a good enough writer to convey my whole sense of disgust with Bradbury's memo. I guess the bottom line was that it made me embarrassed to be a human being let alone an American.

1 comment:

Ali said...

I fail to see how said interrogation techniques constitute torture ("severe physical or mental pain and suffering" according to 18 U.S.C. 2340A) and thus constitute war crimes. I can't believe you are serious unless of course in your false and dare I say naive world-view of Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism that anything that causes suspected terrorists discomfort or displeasure (e.g., seeing a female without her arms and legs and hair covered to say nothing of not wearing a hijab or burqa for that matter) constitutes torture.

A facial hold is torture?

A facial slap is torture?

Stress positions is torture?

Wall Standing is torture?

Walling is torture when you have a towel wrapped around your head to avoid whiplash and the sounds of being thrust against the wall is due to the fake, flexible wall, not the thrusting (this should be more accurately called simulated wall thrusting)?

Confinement boxes is torture, even with an allegedly stinging insect (actually a caterpillar!)?

Sleep deprivation is torture?

Even water boarding; how is that torture? It simulates drowning; what severe physical or mental pain is inflicted?

Your claim in your post that no useful information was obtained from these techniques is false--conveniently President Obama has decided not to release documents disproving this but the NYT has reported that a West Coast terror cell tasked with a 9/11-like plot was broken after Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was water boarded and revealed this operation. Since we are divulging our interrogation techniques (and more specifically what techniques we won't use to Al Qaeda) we might as well also declassify what information we learned from said techniques.

I don't claim to know as much about American political ideologies as you but I have never understood why liberals, whom you routinely claim are supportive of women's rights, gay rights, and tolerance in general are not more outraged and committed to defeating by Al Qaeda and Islamic extremism than the right and conservatives. Indeed, Islamic extremism is anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-pluralism--they epitomize all that liberals, including feminists and gays, oppose yet there seems to be little if any outrage on the left when they murder homosexuals, kills Jews, stone women, etc. It seems to me the left is morally bankrupt here and, along with most of the country, has been emasculated.

As a Muslim who emigrated to the U.S. fifteen years ago and is now a citizen I frankly am amazed at how naive most Americans, especially the left, including you, are about the threat this country faces from these religious fanatics. Equally pathetic and sad for this country is the public discussion now going on about said interrogation techniques which only benefits Al Qaeda.

I fear that President Obama's decision to prohibit these techniques has made the U.S. less safe.