Below is the complete text, which I translated from the French original that you can see here, of an interview with a French philosopher about the implications of the recently released portions of the US Senate report on US torture. Notice in the last paragraph of the interview, the remark about US citizens.
Since 2001, we have been seeing a total withdrawal from the law in the United States
Laureance DERRANOUX 11 December 2014 at 1:32 pm
The philosopher Michel Terestchenko, author of “Le Bon Usage de la torture ou comment les démocraties justifient l’injustifiable”, [The Right Use of Torture or How Democracies Justify the Un-Justifiable], reacts to the publication of the US Senate report on the use of torture by the CIA on suspects following the attacks of September 11, 2001, in secret prisons in foreign countries.
Professor Michel Terestchenko
What is your first reaction to reading this report, published on Tuesday?
It is a terrifying indictment against the CIA, likely to feed all the conspiracy theories and conspirators. From the moment when President Bush signed the National Security Strategy of the United States on September 17, 2001, less than a week after the attack on the World Trade Center, which authorized the director of the CIA to undertake all operations necessary to capture and place in detention all persons who represent a threat of continuing and serious violence and who plan terrorist acts, the CIA has acted with complete impunity, with unprecedented powers, without referring to the executive branch nor to the President. Either because the agency had been tacitly authorized to, or because it deliberately tricked the Bush administration until 2003 and the president until 2006.
It was known that the US had practiced torture since Vietnam. And more recently, since the revelation in 2004 of the atrocities committed by the army in the prison of Abu Graib, in Irak. What is troubling in this report, in addition to the horrific catalog of torture practices used, is that the CIA did not stop transmitting false information to the White House, to various officials, and to the press. It lied about the conditions of detention of the prisoners, about the interrogation techniques used, about the physical effects of these methods, and about their effectiveness …
The effectiveness of torture is however the argument used to defend its use…
George W. Bush publicly recognized in 2006 the use of “alternative procedures”, justifing them a posteriori on the pretext that they would permit “obtaining significant information” and “saving lives”. However, no valuable or useful information permitting the disclosure of an attack resulted from it. What is astonishing, is that the intelligence agencies know that torture is not useful, that information is obtained by face to face questioning and analysis. And what’s more, it is evident that the CIA used inexperienced agents in these interrogation centers.
Is it really possible to think that the highest level of the US government was not informed about this?
Despite what the rapport affirms, it seems very unlikely that president George W. Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, could have been kept in total ignorance of the activities that they had furthermore explicitly put in place and supported at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, or in Irak during this period. On February 7, 2002, the president had furthermore signed a directive restating that the Taliban and prisoners of Al-Qaeda were not protected by the Geneva convention on prisoners of war. Despite the amount of remarkable information collected, there are still unknown areas. Only 525 pages have been declassified of the 6000 in the full report, and a note specifies that the White House refused to give the commission access to 9400 documents that it kept due to “executive privilege”, even after repeated requests including in 2013- under the Obama regime.
What is the conclusion that you draw from this first reading?
This is proof of the dysfunction of the entire chain of command and of the total withdrawal from the rule of law following the attacks of September 11. We have been watching for thirteen years the disappearance of all positive forms of supervision of democratic institutions, the total passivity of citizens. In the same way, the impunity, the secrecy, the distrust of international law, and the ineffectiveness that characterize the policy being used by the CIA to eliminate jihadists with targeted strikes that are in fact assassinations. The US Senate commission concludes that the results of this inquiry are “a warning for the future” that “the intelligence community’s actions must always reflect who we are as a nation ” And that in a situation of crisis it is necessary, more than ever, to adhere to the laws and standards of a democracy.
I was struck by the professor’s remark in the last paragraph about the passivity of US citizens, but I have often wondered in my experiences on the street protesting US wars and torture what would have been the difference if instead of a handful of us there had been a hundred thousand or a million of us.
Protesting US wars in front of a recruiting center in lower Manhattan. Two other people are to the right of this image, out of the view of the photograph. Six people protesting US wars and exploitation of young people who cannot find jobs in this economy and sign up in order to escape from economic deprivation.
And here are a handful of us the day after Obama was elected. We protested in front at Federal Plaza on Broadway and then marched to City Hall, crying “No more torture, no more war, no matter who you voted for.” Click here to read about that.
Only during the OWS days did it seem to me that significant numbers of people were active. I note that the vicious and brutal suppression of OWS followed, but that may just mean that people are going to have to be even more determined if US wars and torture are to stop.
That brings me to the issue of US wars and torture again. We deceive ourselves if we think that US torture has stopped. Torture goes on in US prisons, which house the largest population in the world by magnitudes, as well as in Guantanamo and other sites around the world. And the war goes on as well; US military personnel are posted all over the planet and are in combat in Afghanistan that we know of and perhaps elsewhere.
Professor Terestchenko points out to us one thing that people in the US can change–their engagement in ending US crimes against humanity and torture.