Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rob Crawford — The CIA, the President, and the Senate’s Torture Report

Powerful forces on both sides of the partisan divide want the torture issue to disappear altogether. Many military, security and political elites recognize that U.S. torture, approved at the highest levels of government, created an unsurpassed crisis of legitimacy for the country. Their foremost objective is to restore that legitimacy. 
Arguably, this is the principal reason why Obama issued his executive order rejecting torture in 2009 (I believe that McCain would have likely done the same). It is why the new president counseled amnesia about torture and why he refused to initiate criminal investigations or even a commission of inquiry. It is why he has fallen mostly silent about the issue of torture. The U.S. relies on an image that it conducts its wars humanely and in accordance with international law. Brutality and illegality belong to the enemy. 
Occasionally, however, the brutal and unlawful exercise of state violence becomes public knowledge. The inhumanity of violence “shocks the conscience.” Legitimacy crises follow. For the U.S., the Abu Ghraib photos were a disaster but the disaster kept growing with a cascade of revelations that included documentation of torture of prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan and CIA kidnapping, renditions, and torture in secret prisons. The reverberations are still being felt 
In 2014, national security elites in both political parties, including those who disagree about the permissibility of “enhanced interrogation,” are worried that the Senate report will further aggravate the prolonged crisis of legitimacy caused by U.S. torture—a crisis made worse by the government’s refusal to undertake criminal proceedings and support civil suits, and partisan politics resulting in continuing indefinite detention at Guantanamo prison camp and military commission trials that admit torture as evidence. Most Americans are still unfamiliar with the grizzly details of what their government authorized and which high officials did the authorizing. Globally, especially in the Middle East, the report will likely reactivate multiple resentments; and it may reinforce dismay among allies.…
For the national security elite as a whole, the history of state violence is better left buried or forgotten and dissident voices about current inhumane operations ignored. Above all, the use of violence as an instrument of policy must remain unencumbered.
For these reasons, even though the CIA will be rebuked by liberal Democrats and perhaps some legislative reforms will be attempted, calls for accountability will continue to be opposed. For national security elites, the release of the Senate report summary will be treated as the end of the story—time to turn the page to narratives more consistent with the myth of American Exceptionalism. 
The CIA, the President, and the Senate’s Torture Report
Rob Crawford | Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences University of Washington, Tacoma

No comments: