without unnecessary conversation

Over the last couple of days I’ve been looking over the summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on the CIA’s ‘Detention and Interrogation Program’. It’s pretty appalling. It’s hard to single out the most reprehensible fact, but this certainly comes pretty close:

According to CIA records, interrogators began using the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques at DETENTION SITE COBALT a “few minutes” after the questioning of KSM began. KSM was subjected to facial and abdominal slaps, the facial grab, stress positions, standing sleep deprivation (with his hands at or above head level), nudity, and water dousing.” Chief of Interrogations [name redacted] also ordered the rectal rehydration of KSM without a determination of medical need, a procedure that the chief of interrogations would later characterize as illustrative of the interrogator’s “total control over the detainee.”

KSM is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And rectal rehydration — what, exactly, is that?

[T]he medical officer who subjected KSM to rectal rehydration, the officer wrote that, “w]hat I infer is that you get a tube up as far as you can, then open the IV wide. No need to squeeze the bag – let gravity do the work… [W]e used the largest Ewal [sic] tube we had.” The “lunch tray” consisted of “hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins” which was pureed and “rectally infused.”

Again, there was no medical reason for this. It was simply used as part of the program to break Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. At least five detainees were subjected to rectal rehydration. Other detainees were subjected to rectal exams that, according to the report, were conducted with “excessive force.” Still more were threatened with rectal rehydration.

Some CIA defenders have suggested the rectal rehydration was medically necessary as a response to a hunger strike. That’s bullshit. Hunger strikes have certainly taken place (and, I believe, continue to take place) in Guantanamo, but there are ways of dealing with them that don’t require jamming a large-bore plastic tube up some guy’s ass. The Senate report describes how medical personnel “implemented various techniques to provide fluids and nutrients, including the use of a nasogastric tube and the provision of intravenous fluids” to insure hunger strikers received nourishment. In fact, one hunger striker, Majid Khan, even cooperated with that practice.

CIA records indicate that Majid Khan cooperated with the feedings and was permitted to infuse the fluids and nutrients himself. After approximately three weeks, the CIA developed a more aggressive treatment regimen “without unnecessary conversation.” Majid Khan was then subjected to involuntary rectal feeding and rectal hydration.

Without unnecessary conversation. Lawdy. Then again, I suppose if you’ve decided to torture and sexually humiliate somebody, what’s the point of chatting about it first?

But here’s the thing — under most state laws, what the CIA called ‘rectal rehydration’ would be considered rape. Federal law at the time these horrors took place still defined rape as “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” Under federal law, it was impossible to rape a man. Since then, the Department of Justice has changed the law to include men is victims. The law now includes the following in the definition of rape:

The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim. (emphasis added)

These men were raped. These men, while in U.S. custody, were deliberately raped as part of a program designed to break their spirit. They were raped by U.S. operatives in a conscious effort to sexually humiliate them. They were raped purely as a means to assert control over them, to demonstrate the ability of the United States to do whatever the hell we wanted, to impose our will on them in any way we wanted.

Rape, of course, is a crime. Systematic rape as a tactic in war is included by the International Criminal Court as a crime against humanity. The authorization of systematic rape is also a war crime.

And the Bush administration’s justification for this? We were afraid. The U.S. had been attacked on 9/11/2001 and we were afraid. We were afraid, so we tortured people and sexually humiliated them. We were — and still are — so afraid of terrorists that we allowed them to terrorize us into betraying ourselves.

A year and a half ago I said we’d become a nation of fear-biters. Not much has changed.

10 thoughts on “without unnecessary conversation

  1. I keep hearing all this “justification” claiming that what was done was “legal” so as long as it was legal it was OK to do. How about “morally abhorrent”? How about NOT doing something because it is morally abhorrent no matter if it is legal or not?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Law, sadly, is always slower to evolve than morality. It was legal to own slaves, after all. And legal to discriminate against former slaves, and legal to deny women the right to vote. It’s still legal in some states to fire somebody from a job because of their sexual orientation. And for a while, the Bush administration concocted a legal fiction that allowed them to torture folks.


  2. I have heard repeated comments from hard-headed idjits who maintain that it doesn’t matter *what* we did to people who killed or plotted to kill 3000 Americans (maybe, maybe not, but that’s irrelevant, right?). It does matter. I don’t even know how to react to these folks; I get something like a blood-boiling feeling that makes me sick at this fear mentality and lack of morality and judgement. Are we really so damned uncivilized, still? Maybe so.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s just anger and fear and hatred, which is easier to feel than compassion and common sense. Social fear-biting. It’s sad and pathetic…and as far as that goes, it’s easier for us to get angry at those haters than to feel compassion for them. Compassion is some tough shit to deal with.


  3. And we wonder why our country is so hated….Maybe this could be why? I mean wrong is wrong in any language. immoral is immoral, no matter what belief. Evil doesn’t seem to even touch this, it is so darkly surreal.


    • You know, I’m not always sure that ‘immoral is immoral, no matter what belief.’ Or maybe it is, if we more narrowly define ‘immoral’. So much of morality is culturally or socially determined. What’s moral here may be immoral there; what was moral then may be immoral now.

      I’m inclined to believe deliberate cruelty is immoral. An indifference to suffering or the positive pleasure in inflicting suffering on others — that seems pretty solidly immoral to me. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. For me, at any rate.


  4. Still by no means can it compare to the atrocities against American soldiers captured during World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. Learning “our side” can be just as vicious as the enemy really shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone. War is war, whether fought on battlegrounds or at the hands of a spy network.

    Is this behavior acceptable? No. Can we do anything to stop it either by our side, or the other side? Again, no. You and I can sound our disdain until we’re blue in the face, but you can be assured the next type of torture will be even more egregious.


    • I think we CAN do something to stop it on our side…or at least we can do something to make it less likely to happen. But yeah, in any hot war there’s going to be viciousness and cruelty. At ground level, that’s pretty much what war is, isn’t it.


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