Thursday, June 23, 2016

It Never Goes Away

“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

As time passes, secret government files eventually get unclassified. Sometimes the results are shocking. Sometimes they simply confirm what too many already know.  Occasionally, secret files are simply compromised. Leaked photographs. A few documents slide into public view. Or an Edward Snowden/WikiLeaks deluge of confidential and almost always embarrassing information.
Our military and diplomatic exploits – often heavily laced with dark ops, collateral damage, misinformation and horrific support for brutal global leaders – have become fodder for those who now see the United States as fundamentally a bully-nation gone rogue. Our own secret communications, coupled with hard video of bad action, are turned against us… used to shape global opinion to counter our strategic ambitions or to recruit or motivate fighters to attack us.
America’s efforts to supply nations during natural disasters, our opposition to genocidal leaders in Bosnia in the early 1990s or against Hitler in WWII, our willingness to rescue hostages and our food aid programs all around the world slide into ancient memories. Instead the world focuses on hateful campaign rhetoric, collateral damage, our continued willingness to back brutal regimes or the timed release of records of our own massive misdeeds, some deployed in the outward attempt to save the lives of others. Waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” – almost universally considered “torture” under international law – were just part of the process.
The CIA released dozens of previously classified documents Tuesday that expose disturbing new details of the agency’s treatment of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including one who died in Afghanistan in 2002 after being doused with water and chained to a concrete floor as temperatures plunged below freezing.
The files include granular descriptions of the inner workings of the CIA’s ‘black site’ prisons, messages sent to CIA headquarters from field officers who expressed deep misgivings with how detainees were being treated and secret memos raising objections to the roles played by doctors and psychologists in the administration of treatment later condemned as torture…
“In a press statement, the CIA said it was releasing the files in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The request, for all documents referred to in the Senate report, was first filed by the ACLU, which said the records ‘under­score the cruelty of the methods used in its secret, overseas black sites.’…
“[The] the new releases add to a small but growing library of publicly available records on a covert program that was among the most controversial in CIA history before it was shut down in 2009… That controversy was revived last year when GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump declared that if elected he would order the CIA to resume its use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures — a vow that was denounced by many current and former agency officials.
“Among the more unsettling of the newly released files is a detailed internal investigation of the interrogation and death of Gul Rahman, a militant suspected of ties to al-Qaeda who collapsed after being left overnight in a freezing cell at a CIA prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit.
“The 35-page file retraces previously reported aspects of the case, including the fact that he had been doused with water and left in a cage with no blankets or heat as temperatures tumbled below 32 degrees. But the declassified chronology exposes the extent to which agency negligence and dysfunction rendered the outcome almost inevitable.
“The report describes confusion over who was responsible for medical care of detainees at the Salt Pit and reveals that prisoners were routinely kept in diapers and then stripped of even those when they failed to cooperate.
“Rahman was ‘showing early signs of hypothermia’ within days of arrival at the site, according to the report, but was regarded as a defiant adversary who was unlikely to ‘break’ unless subjected to increasingly severe measures.
“After an afternoon meal in November 2002, Rahman ‘threw his plate, water bottle and waste bucket at the guards,’ prompting a final and fatal crackdown. He was ‘shackled in a sitting position on bare concrete while nude from the waist down,’ the report said. Patrols noticed him shaking the next morning but didn’t intervene. Two hours later he was found ‘lying motionless on his right side . . . a small amount of blood coming from his nose and mouth.’” Washington Post, June 14th.
This is not who we are as Americans. But it is how a rather large number of people around the world think of us. Whether it is for moral or simple pragmatic reasons (in a hackable world, there is no guarantee of sustainable secrecy), the evil that men do…
I’m Peter Dekom, and if we are Americans truly, let us live by American principles.

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