By Robert C. Koehler
December 22, 2014 "ICH"
- The shock resonating from the Senate
Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report
isn’t due so much to the revelations
themselves, grotesque as the details are,
but to the fact that they’re now officially
public. National spokespersons (except for
Dick Cheney) can no longer deny, quite so
glibly, that the United States is what it
claims its enemies to be.
responsible for the worst sort of abuses of
our fellow human beings: A half-naked man
freezes to death. A detainee is chained to
the wall in a standing position for 17 days.
The stories have no saving grace, not even
The Axis of
Evil smiles, yawns: It’s home.
is, what do we do with this moment of
national self-awareness? Beyond demanding
the prosecution of high-level perps, how
about really changing the game? I suggest
reviving S. 126, a bill introduced into the
U.S. Senate on Jan. 4, 1995 by Daniel
Patrick Moynihan, titled: Abolition of the
Central Intelligence Agency.
agency that has secretly stirred up hell on
earth. Its sins go far beyond torturing
suspected terrorists. This agency, with its
annual budget (in 2013) of nearly $15
billion, has covertly carried out the
bidding of special economic and political
interests since its founding, orchestrating,
among much else, the overthrow of
democratically elected, populist governments
in Iran, Guatemala and Chile because the
U.S. couldn’t control them. In each case,
the regime that followed was darkly
repressive, murderous; the blood of their
victims is also on American hands.
of the CIA could be a conscious step in
tearing our government out of the grip of
the war consensus — this unelected force
that feeds on perpetual global mistrust and
hatred, the exact opposite of what true
speech introducing the bill to the Senate,
he declared that the end of the Cold War
“was a victory achieved by openness, not
secrecy. By frankness, not intrigue.
Empire,” he continued, “did not fall apart
because the spooks had bugged the men’s room
in the Kremlin or put broken glass in Mrs.
Brezhnev’s bath, but because running a huge
closed repressive society in the 1980s had
become — economically, socially and
militarily, and technologically —
senator took a stand for openness and common
sense. He noted that the Information
Security Oversight Office, which monitors
how many secrets are classified each year,
“reported that in 1993 the United States
created 6,408,688 secrets. Absurd. While
each agency has different procedures and
criteria for classifying documents, all seem
to operate under the assumption that
classification is preferable to disclosure.
Moynihan proclaimed, “is a disease. It
causes hardening of the arteries of the
What if we
knew and acknowledged this at the level of
national government? Secrecy perpetuates
rather than exposes mistakes and
accommodates the agenda of special, highly
limited interests. Moynihan’s criticism of
the agency was focused on the secrecy
itself, not the games the agency played in
secret or the horrors it inflicted on the
innocent, but it was a start.
report opens the door to the nature of the
CIA’s secrets and forces public scrutiny of
them. The agency operates in what has to be
called a moral vacuum, seeking and claiming
authorization to extract “intelligence” from
people by cracking them open physically and
emotionally. I call it Human Trash Syndrome:
the belief that humans under one’s complete
control have no innate value and can be
abused and discarded at will.
McGovern wrote, “. . . one can no more
‘authorize’ torture than rape or slavery.
Torture inhabits that same moral category,
which ethicists label intrinsic evil, always
wrong — whether it ‘works’ or not.”
absurdity could further degrade intrinsic
evil, however, torture as practiced by the
CIA didn’t work at all. It produced no
information of value to the national cause.
But as McGovern also pointed out,
referencing Gen. John Kimmons, former head
of Army intelligence, “. . . if it’s bad
intelligence you’re after, torture works
like a charm. If, for example, you wish to
‘prove,’ post 9/11, that ‘evil dictator’
Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaeda
and might arm the terrorists with WMD, bring
on the torturers.”
because a torture victim, under sufficient
duress, will say anything you want him to.
And it was torture testimony, specifically
that of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, that Bush
administration officials used in their
marketing of the Iraq war, McGovern noted.
Al-Libi provided CIA interrogators with the
golden (and nonexistent) link between Saddam
and al-Qaeda, which was cited by, among
others, Colin Powell in his infamous address
to the United Nations in February 2003. Al-Libi
eventually recanted all his testimony, to,
of course, minimal publicity, and it didn’t
matter anyway because by then the war with
Iraq was already underway.
CIA. It serves national insecurity. It
serves everything about this country we need
to change. Waterboarding and “rectal
rehydration” and the infliction of
unendurable stress and terror on detainees
are today’s headlines, but what they
guarantee is even worse: a world that will
never learn how to live at peace with
Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based
journalist and nationally syndicated writer.
His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound
(Xenos Press), is still available. Contact
email@example.com or visit his website
TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.