On the CIA’s torture program: Admitting is only halfway to accountability

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More than a decade has passed since the United States and its allies started their so-called ‘global war on terror’ the ripples of which are only becoming clearer as the years start to wane against the coalition of the killing.

How the United States has conducted this ‘war on terror’ is, for some time now, an issue that has seeped their way to the headlines, from the illegal Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, to the revelations of former intelligence officers, including Snowden and Assange.

But more recently, in a redacted 500-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on how the CIA conducted it’s euphemistically called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, it was confirmed that the CIA conducted a secret torture program. It is no surprise, but what is worrying is that no one person was named nor the critical times they were conducted were mentioned in the report. As Bush and Obama fondly remind the world, ‘people should be held accountable’. But as we suspect, moral relativism plays a role in how the US conducts its foreign policy.

For instance, former US vice president Dick Cheney staunchly denied that the CIA’s program of enhanced interrogation techniques is equivalent to the legal term ‘torture’. In an emotional interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Cheney, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was unapologetic about the CIA program, and instead said ‘I would do it again in a minute’.

The former vice president also played the emotional card, saying that what constitutes torture were the 9/11 attacks, saying that “there is no comparison between that and what we did with respect to enhanced interrogation”. As to what the NBC host enumerated (rectal feeding, keeping a man in a coffin-sized box, handcuffing another man’s wrist to an overhead bar for 22 hours per day, for two consecutive days) during the interview, Cheney pointed out that “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective.”

On the one hand, the US Department of State denied the possibility of prosecuting anyone involved in the CIA’s torture program. In a press meeting, Jen Psaki played the emotional card saying “we made the decision to lay out very transparently what exactly we have done in the past that we didn’t think was consistent with our values, and I think that’s showing strength as a nation”. Such statement is consistent with Obama, who advised Americans “to focus on…getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

This essentially denies anyone from being held accountable for such gruesome misdeeds. Indeed, by choosing to move on and forget about the past, the US is fortifying its foreign policy position of using torture as an available option for future American leaders because it is morally relative to do so.

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