Friday, March 27, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Senate torture report needs full disclosure

crisp column sig

By
April 15, 2014 |

When my students use their cellphones to text during class, they always do so furtively, hands beneath a desk or hidden (they think) behind a strategically positioned purse or backpack.  Thus they affirm this very human principle:  When we’re doing something we know we’re not supposed to be doing, we usually try to hide it.

Accordingly, despite an 11-3 vote this month by the Senate Intelligence Committee to declassify the results of its four-year investigation into the use of “harsh interrogation techniques,” that is, torture, after 9/11, resistance from CIA officials and some Republicans is predictable.

According to McClatchy and other media organizations, the committee’s review of millions of CIA documents revealed little evidence that torture produced much useful information, and it appears that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were more “enhanced” than we’ve been led to believe.

Committee chair Dianne Feinstein argues for full disclosure: “The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation.  It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen.”

It’s not that torture is a slippery slope; it’s that all human progress is, from savagery to enlightenment.  The journey away from human sacrifice, cannibalism, infanticide, genital mutilation, genocide, slavery, child labor, discrimination, intolerance, and repression of women has been slow, difficult, and halting.  Sometimes progress stops altogether, and very, very often civilization regresses.

We don’t serve the aspirations of this progress with Orwellian euphemism to justify practices that enlightened civilizations have struggled to leave behind.

Some apologists for enhanced interrogation have compared it to high-spirited college hazing, but they’re wrong in so many ways that it’s hard to know where to begin.  Waterboarding, for example, is meant to instill terror and pain, which is a fine definition of torture.

In fact, in his short history of the Spanish-American War of 1898, writer James Bradley quotes First Lt. Grover Flint, who described the regular waterboarding of Filipinos to a Senate panel: “A man suffers tremendously; there is no doubt about that.”  Others have called waterboarding “agony.”

So, despite denials by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former President George W. Bush (“America does not torture”), America has, indeed, tortured.  America should commit to never torturing again.

Or should it?  No discussion of torture ever gets very far before it encounters the “ticking time bomb” scenario.  A terrorist has planted a nuclear device in the heart of New York City, and unless he discloses its location, thousands will die.  He refuses to talk.  The clock is ticking.  Is torture justified to save thousands?

Sam Harris, prominent atheist and writer, has trouble thinking of a reason why we shouldn’t.  He points out the philosophical paradox that we face when we reject torture while accepting (or ignoring) the brutal collateral damage that occurs during the course of ordinary war.

If we are willing to incinerate innocent men, women, and children with firebombing and nuclear weapons in the pursuit of some higher goal, why should we hesitate, he asks, to inflict the same level of suffering on a terrorist in order to save innocent lives?

I don’t have a good answer for that.  Nor do I know if using torture in that situation turns us into torturers any more than an act of cannibalism by a castaway on a desert island turns him into a cannibal.

But the “ticking time bomb scenario” is extremely hypothetical, only loosely related to the post-911 torture committed by the Bush administration, which was a dangerous repudiation of human progress that surrendered a great deal of moral high ground.

Perhaps the only thing more morally dangerous than torture is covering it up.  The full disclosure of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation will help us decide what kind of country we want to be, one that tortures or one that does not.  Unless we have to.

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Readers may send him email at [email protected]

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Vacaville honors top cops, support staff

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Kings honor Rankin, Mustangs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: A2, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
New meeting location for family support group

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

Padan Elementary demonstrates new school culture

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Fairfield mall to host first aid kit assembly party

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
 
 
Fairfield police log: March 24, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A7

Suisun City police log: March 24, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A7

 
Frustration permeates college contract negotiations

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A7 | Gallery

.

US / World

Vallejo woman’s story a hoax, police say

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 5 Comments

 
Deceased woman’s video supports Wolk’s bill

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Man threatened suicide before shooting officer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Opinion

 
We deserve freedom to choose our fate

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A5, 4 Comments

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: March 26, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: March 26, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: March 26, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
After several years, my nieces now live with their father and are miserable

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

David Crosby in car accident with jogger

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Contract not renewed for ‘Top Gear’ host

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Felicity Jones excited, tight-lipped about Star Wars role

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Sports

 
Prep badminton preview: City teams making their marks

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

6 teams with 10 or more losses most ever to reach Sweet 16

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
After 1st division title in 39 years, Warriors want more

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Local report: Rodriguez boys swim past Vintage

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Gomez uses offense and defense, leads Brewers past A’s

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Cal to host UC Davis in 2019, Cal Poly in 2020

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Lanny McDonald selected as chairman of Hockey Hall of Fame

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Serena Williams hoping to play at Miami Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Change to extra points likely in NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Bills to honor late owner Wilson with life-sized statue

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Tulowitzki homers, Butler strong in Rockies’ win over Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Elliott heads to Martinsville to attempt 1st Sprint Cup race

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Alameda County to join talks about new Oakland stadium

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rio mayor unveils controversial Olympic golf course

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Joe Gibbs’ son being treated for ‘brain function’ issues

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

America’s Cup organizers want smaller, cheaper boats

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Howard Leon Carnes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9