The Citizen's Right to the Truth on Torture: Calling out the Torture Apologists For Their Day of Reckoning

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Torturing and Parading a Mentally Disturbed Inmate

Citation # 1

 “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.”  Hebrews 13:3

Citation # 2

“We share with the parties to the [Rome] Statute a commitment to ensuring accountability for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity – look, for example, to our unflagging support for the tribunals established to prosecute crimes committed in such disparate places as the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. We also believe that our domestic system is capable of prosecuting and punishing our own citizens for these crimes.”  – John B. Bellinger III, Legal Adviser U.S. Dep’t of State, The United States and International Law,  Remarks at the Hague, The Netherlands, June 6, 2007,  (Emphasis added).

Citation # 3

“From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.” – –  Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba (Ret’d.). Seymour M. Hersh, The General’s Report, New Yorker, June 25, 2007,       

Citation # 4

From that moment [January 11, 2002], well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive’s will to resist. The vice president’s office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion of prisoners in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials.

The vice president’s office pushed a policy of robust interrogation that made its way to theU.S.naval prison atGuantanamo Bay,Cuba, … and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden “torture” and permitted use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government.”  Barton Gellman & Jo Becker, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power, Wash. Post, June 25, 2007,

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

No need to go to Zero Dark Thirty – propaganda for torture – just go back to the real photos like the one above of a real person being tortured from Abu Ghraib and see the torture done in our name.  The four quotes above are the quotes I used to start my 165 page 2008 article Benjamin G. Davis, Refluat Stercus: A Citizen’s View of Criminal Prosecution in U.S. Domestic Courts of High-Level U.S. Civilian Authority and Military Generals for Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, 23 St. John’s J. Legal Commentary 503 (2008) (Part 1:; Part 2:; Part 3:  The photo from that article does not wish to reprint itself here so I have had to put the one above here to remind Americans of what was done in our name.

I have read recently that the CIA operative who is the model for Maya in Zero Dark Thirty was the operative who sent Khaled El-Masri to be tortured.  This El-Masri was the subject of Thursday’s European Court of Human Rights decision condemning Macedonia for his treatment and which I cited in my December 13, 2012 post on the Mushroom Theory of Governance.

Over at,,, and Jurist, I have scanned to see the apologists for torture who filled us with their nonsense for all these nearly 12 years to see what are their commentaries on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s devastating  report on torture out on December 13, 2012.  All that I have seen is a muted posting on December 14, 2012 at announcing the report and that it is “critical.” Similarly, the television media has been curiously circumspect about the report – which has been overtaken in the news cycle by the devastating tragedy of Newtown which we all mourn.

Something is seriously deranged in America today – this is what all kinds of people said to me in conversations as we watched the Newtown tragedy on the news yesterday.  I hope all citizens of goodwill can help address this chasm in our American soul that will never heal.  There is a balm in Gilead.

Returning to the Senate Intelligence Report and the silence, in my experience since 9/11, the periods of silence are the most troublesome.  One has to try to analyze the silence to see what it says.  My best guess is that so many people who were responsible for the torture are hoping against hope that the Zero Dark Thirty opening (recently blessed as “the movie” by a CIA spokeswoman) next week will be a big splash and it will spill its propaganda out through the population and imprint the false connection between the torture and getting Osama Bin Laden on the minds of the American people and around the world. Sort of a, “this is my story and I am sticking to it.”  And, the Senate Intelligence Report that says the torture was ineffective AND counter-productive gets swept away in the media frenzy on the movie and afterward the Oscar nomination hype etc. 

Beyond that, in my experience, these periods between a presidential election and the actual January 20 inauguration are strange interregnums for reasons I will not go into here in detail.  There is on the one hand a cleaning out of the old and on the other a preparing for the new.  That the Senate Intelligence Committee report comes out in this period and is released with news reports at 7h17 pm on a Thursday seems to me a perfect example of the Washington, D.C. “public hush up” mode.  The hope is our attention will turn to other things like the tragedy in Newtown, the fiscal cliff, and in the New Year the pomp and circumstance of the inaugural and the inaugural speech.

So, in this period in which the torture apologists maintain a silence about the devastating report and the blogosphere interested in this stuff spends it time on the meta-battle discussing Zero Dark Thirty, let me as the ordinary citizen ask each of you who read this to read over the blogs I have sent out this week on boycotting Zero Dark Thirty, on Bringing Light to the Mushroom Theory of Governance, and on the Buck Stopping with the Citizen and think to yourself what can you do in your place in this country to make sure that those who have lied to us for nearly 12 years are held accountable.

I am asking people to pass these blogs along to anyone that they want.  I know that what I write is not brilliant and is not the most erudite writing on these topics.  There are many people who are around this world who write much more intellectually on these things than I do.  My point is to bear witness and give people a chance to see someone is thinking about this who is an ordinary citizen in Toledo, Ohio – to bear witness in the hope that I can call out all that is good in my fellow citizens to hold accountable the worst that has been done in our names.  Some may think this is about shaming people, but my point is that these people shamed themselves in their panic and hysteria.  Some people may think this is a Democratic/Republican thing, if that were so I would not be calling out Democracts and Republicans.  Yes, Bush and Cheney put this torture on track and those who aided and abetted that effort in the last administration are to be held to account.  But, the current administration has not done much about this either – it perpetuates the Mushroom Theory of Governance on torture.

As an African-American as much as as an American, it pains me to see anyone who remembers the legacy of the horrendous violence done to black people over the past 400 years in this country, now seeming to go along with the torture of people just because they are foreigners and we are angry about 9/11.  I am as angry as anyone about 9/11, just like if I was one of those parents in Newtown I would want to dig up the body of the shooter and put a cap in it.  I feel and understand that anger.

But, my hope is that the anger can be not the dark anger of torture but the righteous anger of accountability bringing people to justice, not devolving into signature drone strikes against military age men and the like, but acting with lucidity and implacable determination.   And, as part of that, we need to step away from knee-jerk middle schoolers with security clearance approaches to a complex world in which we have adversaries who are much more sophisticated than that – and far more deadly.

So I again call on my compatriots to boycott Zero Dark Thirty as it is revealed for what it is – propaganda that tries more misdirection of Americans away from the truth: torture is a crime, ineffective, and counterproductive.  That truth was figured out long ago.

Let us have the toughness of people like Giles Corey.  Who was he?  Go back to your hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials.  Here is the Wikipedia entry with a photo on him. 

Giles Corey (also spelled Cory or Coree, c. 1611 – September 19, 1692) was a farmer and member of the church in early colonial America who died under judicial torture during the Salem witch trials. Corey refused to enter a plea, and was crushed to death by stone weights in an attempt to force him to do so. In April 1692, he was accused of witchcraft by Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis and Abigail Williams. Ann Putnam, Jr. claimed that on April 13, the specter of Giles Corey visited her and asked her to write in the Devil’s book. Later, Putnam also claimed that a ghost appeared before her to announce that it had been murdered by Corey. Other girls were to describe Corey as “a dreadful wizard” and recount stories of assaults by his specter. Corey’s reported last words were “More rocks” or “More weight”.

He is for me that strain of independence in the American character that I attempt to invoke in these blogposts – the resistance to the craziness unto death.