One of the most troubling things about the Bush administration, writes Tucson lawyer Ken Sanders on the Democratic Underground web site, is the contempt it shows for the American public.  --  The insistence that "we do not torture" is a case in point.  --  The evidence to the contrary is massive: not only the 1200 pages of Greenberg & Dratel's The Torture Papers, the elaborate reports from Human Rights Watch and others, and the first-person accounts, but also the administration's own acknowledgement of "interrogation techniques" like waterboarding.  --  If language means anything, the United States does torture.  --  But the corruption of language itself is one inevitable result of great nations choosing to do ill, as Thucydides observed long ago....

By Ken Sanders

Democratic Underground
November 12, 2005

The Bush administration thinks we are all a bunch of idiots, too stupid to know the difference between truth and lies. Bush & Co. seem to think that, regardless of what the facts are, they can get us to believe the opposite. If it’s day, they’ll convince us it’s night. Black, white. You know the drill. They operate under the arrogant assumption that if they say it is so, we’ll accept that declaration as the incontrovertible truth, even if that “truth” is unsupported by anything other than, “Trust us.”

Why shouldn’t Bush and his henchmen operate under the assumption that we’re too moronic to know when they’re lying to our faces? So far, their assumption has been all-too-true. Iraq was involved in September 11. Iraq nearly obtained uranium from Niger. Abu Ghraib was the work of a few bad apples. They feed us shit, call it paté, and laugh as we eat it up.

Take, for instance, the Bush administration’s ongoing insistence that the U.S. does not engage in torture. As recently as November 7, 2005, despite the administration’s vehement and open opposition to a Senate bill that would outlaw torture, Bush nonetheless declared (straight-faced and with all the appearances of sincerity), “We do not torture.” Apparently, the administration believes that the word of our “straight-shooting” President is enough for most Americans.

Sadly, they’re right. Most Americans are far more willing to believe what the Bush administration says than what it does. If that were not the case, the nation would collectively shout, “LIARS!,” descend upon Washington, and throw the bastards out of office. Instead, most of us, like the gullible dolts we are, take the administration at its word and blithely ignore the facts staring us in the face.

The most recent example of the Bush administration’s policy of “believe what we say, not what we do,” are the recent revelations that the U.S. maintains “ghost prisons” the world over. Ominously referred to as “black sites” in government documents, these secret prisons are thought to be located in Thailand, Afghanistan, as well as several former members of the Soviet Union such as Uzbekistan and Romania. Operated by the CIA, the “black sites” were heretofore unknown to most members of Congress, even (or especially) those charged with overseeing the CIA’s covert activities. Almost nothing is known about who is detained at the sites, how long they have been held there, or what interrogation methods are used on them.

In response to the revelation of the CIA’s global network of secret prisons, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would neither confirm nor deny their existence (thereby confirming they exist). Nevertheless, Mr. Hadley assured the good people of the U.S. that “assuming there are such sites” (wink, wink), “the United States will not torture” and “will conduct its activities in compliance with [the] law and international obligations.”

Really? If the U.S. is so willing to detain and interrogate suspects in compliance with the law and international treaties, why the need for secret prisons? Why hold people in undisclosed locations throughout the world if there is nothing to hide? National security is not a valid excuse. These sites weren’t even disclosed to most members of Congress. Are we to believe that members of Congress pose a security risk? Besides, it simply strains credulity to argue that the U.S. could not securely detain high-level terror suspects in facilities other than black sites. It already does so.

More likely, the CIA keeps its black sites secret because it knows that what it’s doing there is illegal. Indeed, according to the Washington Post, the CIA wants to keep the sites secret in order to prevent legal challenges to its tactics. Put simply, the CIA has hidden prisons because it has something to hide. These are not the acts of a government interested in complying with domestic and international legal obligations. These are the acts of criminals.

The European Union has its suspicions. Upon learning of the CIA’s black sites, the EU promised an investigation. Likewise, Scottish police are investigating CIA “torture flights” which stop off at Scottish airports en route to such “torture-friendly” destinations as Egypt, Uzbekistan, and Morocco. Iceland has promised its own investigation into the CIA’s use of Icelandic airports for extraordinary rendition. Denmark, too. A Swedish investigation concluded the CIA violated Swedish law by flying two Egyptian men from Stockholm to Cairo where they were tortured. In Italy, an arrest warrant remains outstanding for 19 CIA agents for kidnapping an Islamist cleric and shipping him to Egypt to be tortured.

Nothing to hide, indeed.

As troubling as these black sites are in isolation, they become even more disturbing when placed in context. Obsessed with protecting the administration’s “right” to torture people, Vice President Cheney has waged war against any attempts to ban, or even limit, torture of terror suspects. Last October, in an effort to defeat passage of the Senate’s ban on torture, Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss pleaded with Congress to make an exception for the CIA. After the legislation passed 90 to 9, in early November Cheney made a closed-door, personal appeal to Republican senators to exempt the CIA from the Senate’s ban. According to Cheney, while the U.S. absolutely does not engage in torture, the CIA should nevertheless be exempted from any ban on the practice. Just in case.

The CIA operates secret prisons in various locations around the world. The White House wants the CIA exempted from any ban on torturing terror suspects. You do the math.

Keep in mind, we already know that waterboarding, electric shocks, beatings, and sleep deprivation has been widely practiced in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. If such clear acts of torture are occurring in facilities that we know about and that are subject to Congressional oversight, are we really supposed to believe that nothing improper is happening in ghost prisons and black sites? Somehow I doubt the CIA and the White House want to keep such facilities secret because they’re embarrassed by how well the detainees there are being treated.

Since at least January of 2002, Bush & Co. have exempted terrorists from requirements of humane treatment; they have redefined torture so as to exclude anything short of death or organ failure; they have authorized such acts of “non-torture” as electrocution, waterboarding, and stress positions; they have vowed to veto any legislation limiting the administration’s ability to torture terror suspects; they operate secret prisons around the world; they send terror suspects to countries known for torture; and they have fought tirelessly to exempt the CIA from any prohibition of torture.

Nonetheless, they indignantly declare, “We do not torture.”

--Ken Sanders is a lawyer and writer in Tucson whose publishing credits include Op Ed News, Z Magazine, Common Dreams, Democratic Underground, Dissident Voice, and Political Affairs Magazine, among others.  All of his articles may be found at