Consciousness Raising: CIA Sisters Aren't Doing Torture For Themselves

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By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

Further to my Zero Dark Thirty posts, came across dear old John Yoo ( doing a diversity tap dance in favor of the torture woman being examined to head the CIA Directorate of Clandestine Operations under Droner-in-Chief John Brennan  – let us call her Ms. X. He joins former CIA Director Michael Hayden’s praise of the “band of sisters” who were tracking Osama and at whose feet there is an effort to lay the torture.  You know, a sort of, “These tough b….s! What are you going to do?” kind of meme that implies a kind of grudging respect for how tough they were and that they should be given their “day in the sun” even if they did some nasty things.

Dirty diversity (paraphrasing a 2004 Jurist post of Professor Ali Khan  “Dirty Diversity: Bush Minority Appointees as Tools of Force, Power and Expediency” is brought forward to now invoke gender diversity, along with racial and ethnic diversity.

After hiding behind memos and the bureaucratic games to avoid prosecution,  all those men at the top instrumentalize the gender of subordinates as part of their effort to insulate  themselves!

For a person of a certain age, listening to these key players in the American torture debacle singing siren songs for diversity that evoke the civil rights and women’s movements as another reason to overlook the torture they put in place just is one more load of manure that is too much too  handle.

Jose Rodriguez, Ms. X, Arthur Warren ( – a veritable Mod Squad may have done the torture.  In fact, people of every oppressed American minority may have totally willingly participated in the torture of these foreigners whether in uniform or not, as medical personnel or not.

This line of rationalization is a perverse intelligence reinvention of the history of the American human rights struggle for integration and equality to instrumentalize that history for the purposes of assuring impunity for the servitors of the torture state.  Hannah Arendt must be shaking her head as she watches from the grave this kind of tactic she presented in the Origins of Totalitarianism.

Whatever their background and whatever their rationalization, the torture they did to please their higherups was wrong and a crime. 

The consciousness raising on mysoginy and subordination that has been a hallmark of the long twilight struggle for gender equality, as well for that matter as other struggles against virulent dark aspects of our American soul in seeking racial and sexual orientation equality, never envisioned that all that effort was and is done to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to torture.  Or that affirmative action should include affirmative action for torturers. 

It is in the nature of a peremptory norm like the prohibition against torture and cruel inhuman and degrading treatment that said norm trumps the diversity rationale and not the other way around. 

Now, it is possible that we may seek to reverse this hierarchy for our internal purposes because it advances the agenda of powerful people who put in place the torture, but we must understand that in doing that we are not advancing anything more than the agenda of the kind of repressive forces that form the hallmark of the structure of oppression – gender, racial or sexual orientation oppression. 

We can see this in Toledo.  Hope they can see this in Berkeley and at Langley.  C’mon man!