Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it.
- John Lennon
"Let me put it plainly: these people do not belong on my television. They belong in prison, for the crimes of theft, torture and murder. They shattered the lives of thousands of American soldiers and millions of Iraqi civilians. They savaged the American economy paying for it all, and several of them got very rich in the process. They should be in orange jumpsuits and fetters, picking mealworms out of their gruel while shuttered in very small, very grim, very inescapable metal rooms."
I wrote that back in June of this year because I thought I knew the whole deal. I saw all the pictures from Abu Ghraib, knew about the so-called "Black Sites" where innocent prisoners were sent to be torn apart, read all the books, and listened to the words of those who endured these seven hells and lived. Quite a crowd of people, including several prisoners who cannot be accounted for to this day, did not survive to tell their tale.
I thought I knew, I really did, and then the Senate dropped their Torture Report, and we all got to hear about a guy whose dinner of hummus, pasta and nuts was pureed and then blasted up his anus in an act of violence and humiliation that isn't even the worst of what was reported. They tied prisoners to beds and made them stand on broken legs for dozens of hours. A description of one photograph of one waterboard - there were others, of course - called it "well worn." Several of the people tasked to deliver these horrors are described as having "issues" that should have disqualified them from government service altogether, including "histories of violence and mistreatment of others."
In my name. In your name. In our name.
And, oh, P.S., all this brutality delivered pretty much absolutely nothing: "The Senate Intelligence Committee reviewed 20 cited examples of intelligence 'successes' that the CIA identified from the interrogation program and found that there was no relationship between a cited counterterrorism success and the techniques used. Furthermore, the information gleaned during torture sessions merely corroborated information already available to the intelligence community from other sources, including reports, communications intercepts, and information from law-enforcement agencies, the committee found."
The Senate report, in an all too typical act of mutual political back-scratching, claimed that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the rest of the usual suspects were duped by a defensive and dysfunctional CIA. The "mainstream" news media, which is just as culpable for all this as those who ordered it and those who performed it, seized upon this and predictably leaped to the defense of the Bush administration they spilled so much ink propping up and protecting. The New York Times - former homestead of Judith Miller, who did as much as anyone to deliver this bag of Fail to us all - led the charge.
But here's the thing: The report stated in plain black ink that the Bush White House brain trust, from top to bottom, learned of these doings in 2006. Fifteen full months later, George W. Bush got up on his hind legs like a good little doggie and proclaimed for all to hear, with his bare face hanging right out there in the wind, that "This government does not torture people." Except he knew that this government did, in fact, torture people. He knew, and if he actually didn't, it was because Dick Cheney never cut him in on the process.
Ah, yes, Dick Cheney, who on Monday - before the report was even released - personally and explicitly exploded the argument that the Bush administration was kept in the dark:
"What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation, and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it. I think that's all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program."
I've been in this business for the balance of two decades, and I am here to tell you, with my own bare face hanging out, that it almost never gets more straightforward than that. Hammer, meet nail: They knew, and Dick Cheney is proud enough to crow about that knowledge from the well of his ghoul's soul. You'd think the "news" media people with all their recording equipment and, you know, having the internet available, would try to avoid being so embarrassingly contradictory ... except they're engaged in the process of ass-covering with the same vigor as those who launched all this in the first place.
Speaking of ghoul's souls, it is worthwhile at this juncture to note the reaction to this report by the well-funded publicly-available insane asylum more commonly known as Fox News. "The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome," ranted Fox host Andrea Tantaros upon release of the report. "We've closed the book on it, and we've stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we're not awesome."
I swear to God and sonny Jesus, that network has been reduced to a parody of a parody of a parody, a broadcast TV version of the puppet movie "Team America," complete with theme song, repeated every hour on the hour, all day and all night. You read a detailed report about US personnel sworn to stand for the Constitution shredding people on direct orders from people sworn to stand for the Constitution, and your response is "America is awesome!" Really? Go back to bed.
Back in August, President Obama - who saw this report and all of its grisly details coming a mile away - let drop the least anonymous penny in history: "We tortured some folks." Later in his remarks, the president said, "And, you know, it's important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots, but having said all that, we did some things that were wrong."
Those who tortured are patriots. Those who call it wrong are sanctimonious. Got it?
That, right there, is why this whole nightmare came to be. Not because of President Obama, but because of the soft-pedal smooshy attitude he so clearly expressed. He knew what was going to be in this report when he made those remarks - of course he did - but still chose to butter it up with "patriots" and "9/11 you guys" and "Oops." This level of institutionalized cowardice and knee-jerk ass-covering is exactly and precisely what allows sociopaths in positions of unimaginable power to run wild and bathe in the tears, blood and viscera of their victims.
In my name. In your name. In our names.
Not to get anyone's hopes up, but the conversation about finally bringing to bear the rule of law upon those who so brazenly broke it has been getting loud of late. "Senior US officials who authorized and carried out torture as part of former President George W. Bush's national security policy must be prosecuted, a top UN special investigator said Wednesday. Ben Emmerson, the UN's special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, said in addition that all CIA and other U.S. officials who used waterboarding and other torture techniques must be prosecuted."
In the meantime, there has been a large and increasing amount of talk about Mr. Obama's presidential legacy as the end of his administration approaches at speed. Here's an idea that will hammer that legacy into gold leaf: Fulfill the intention of President John Kennedy, who said he wanted to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind," because the CIA has been doing horrifying things like this not just since 9/11, but for generations, and with utter impunity. Leave a deep and lasting footprint in their backsides, Mr. President, right about where they pumped a prisoner's pureed dinner into him through the aperture it should have come out of when his body was finished with it.
Let me not hold my breath.
As far as the perpetrators go, the Bush-era chieftains, the half-assed lords of war who delivered this disgrace to us all, I comfort myself with an old anecdote:
Once upon a time, there was a man who went to the news stand every morning, bought a newspaper, snarled at the front page, and then threw the paper away in anger. He did this every day, day after day. After a time, the newsboy asked the man, "What is it you're looking for, sir?"
"The obituaries," said the man.
"But sir," said the newsboy, "the obituaries are on page 30."
"When the bastard I'm looking for dies," said the man, "it'll be on the front page."
Thin gruel, to be sure, but time always wins in the end. There will be justice done, on this side or the other.