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Man on Fire--Not!
By Larry C. Johnson
I think Dick Cheney has been watching too many Hollywood flicks that glorify torture. He needs, instead, to get on the ground and talk to the folks he is ostensibly trying to empower to torture. Unlike Dick I have spoken with three CIA operations officers in the last three months--all who have worked on terrorism at the highest levels--and not one endorses torture or believes it will help us. In fact, they believe it will hurt us on many levels.
Two of my friends served in Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. If the suicide bombing of the World Trade Centers was not enough justification for hooking Haji up to battery cables, I don't know what is. My friends recognized correctly that their mission was to gather intelligence not create new enemies. If you inflict enough pain on someone they will give you information, but, unless you kill them, they will hold a grudge. As far as the information goes there is no guarantee it will be correct. What real CIA field officers know from their work with actual sources is that whatever short term benefit can be derived from torture will be offset by the new enemy you have created. It is better to build a relationship of trust, no matter how painstaking, rather than gain a short term benefit that puts you on par with a Nazi concentration camp guard.
And that's the point. We should never use our own fear of being attacked as justification to dehumanize ourselves and another human being in our pursuit of so-called truth. Tell that to Alan Dershowitz. He is big on the ticking nuclear bomb scenario--we will torture the suspected terrorist to obtain the necessary info to save lives of innocents. Of course, we have heard this justification once before at Nuremberg in the aftermath of the Holocaust. What irony that someone known for both his expertise as a lawyer and his faith as a Jew would endorse a practice both illegal and immoral.
Perhaps now we can begin to understand how Adolf Hitler could rally German Christians to do the unthinkable to Jews and Gypsyies in concentration camps. If you convince people that they are at risk unless they move to destroy those who represent a perceived threat, regardless of the methods and means, then you are on your way to atrocities.
Before the CIA gets too much blame for promoting the torture mentality we ought to ask Hollywood, "What the hell are you doing?" In one of Denzel Washington's last outings we could watch him give a corrupt Mexican cop a hand grenade enema. He also taped the hands of another errant cop to the steering wheel and began to snip off digits in an effort to find out the whereabouts of a kidnapped child. Is this Cheney's secret fantasy? To be a rampaging, black super hero?
Thank God that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and other Republicans are standing up to crazy Dick Cheney. Cheney's plea to allow CIA or other intelligence officers to torture would be the death of the CIA as a professional intelligence service and another stain on the reputation of the United States. We're losing our claim to being the City on the Hill as a beacon of light and hope to the world. Instead, we're morphing into the Dark Tower of Lord Sauron in the land of Mordor. Sauron's a big believer in torture, just ask Frodo.