AMERICA’S UNWHOLESOME RELATIONSHIP WITH ITS ‘CORE VALUES’
As the text of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report was unfurling in yesterday’s media, a post from Senator Elizabeth Warren popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. While I am a Warren-for-President dreamer, and the post hit all the important talking points one would hope to hear at a minimum from national spokespersons regarding the report’s findings (“transparency”, “accountability”, “face our mistakes honestly”, “our nation’s core values to preserve our role as a moral leader in the world”, and so forth), the whole message seemed somehow pro-forma, boilerplate, platitudinous.
So I was moved to reply:
Dear U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren,
Here’s what you already know:
Under torture, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi told American interrogators lies about connections between Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, and Iraq. But why did he choose that particular lie?
You also know the answer to that too.
The torture program was not ineffective. Dick Cheney put pressure on the CIA to get the goods on Iraq. Al-Libi and others were tortured not to get information. They were tortured for the same reason North Korean military agents tortured American GIs–to force them to confess.
They wanted confessions they could use for propaganda.
[An additional few hundred words belaboring the point removed…]
Let’s not pretend we can’t connect the dots just because we don’t like the picture […]
Hollywood fictional scenarios aside, torture is never used to gain information. In actual practice, torture always works. It gets results. The North Koreans weren’t after information but they got what they wanted: confessions. Torquemada got confessions. Dick Cheney got confessions. And like Torquemada and the North Koreans, Cheney used the confessions for propaganda—to sell the American people on war with Iraq.
Call for prosecution. Support ICC indictments for war crimes. We must do so, or we will all be as complicit in this rancid rot as the Staten Island grand jury is in the cover up of police execution.
We already know the truth. We’ve known it all along.
On the surface, the point of this unhinged raving was about the need for the Senator to act, not simply sermonize.
On a more fundamental level, I was angry about her agreeing to play the game of referring to the torture program run out of Cheney’s office, legally sanitized by a bogus Justice Department memo, and implemented under the direction of head of the CIA and CIA officers as a “mistake”. All of which is to suggest that this episode of American abuses of human rights and violations of international law is (1) historically anomalous, and (2) a dastardly, aberrational betrayal of our real selves, our core values—chief among them the ever insisted upon Rule of Law® Made in America and Endorsed by Every American Since Washington! 
The first proposition is just historically unsupportable.
The second raises some serious questions about who we “really” are and what actually are our core values. Do we in fact have any actual commitments to democracy and a system that upholds the rule of law?
I was in this returned-to-my-sophomore-year-as-a-government-and-politics-student frame of mind when this Facebook blog-link headline from The Concourse caught my attention: “The American Justice System Is Not Broken” .
The article, which was about the pattern of police shootings of black Americans, included this resonant observation:
If the institutions of white American power taking black lives and then exonerating themselves for it is understood as a failure to live out some more authentic American idea, rather than as the expression of that American idea, then your and my and our lives and lifestyles are distinct from those failures. We can stand over here, and shake our heads at the failures over there, and then return to the familiar business, and everything is OK. Likewise, if the individual police officers who take black lives are just some bad cops doing policework badly, and not good cops doing precisely what America has hired and trained them to do, then white Americans may continue calling the police when black people frighten us, free from moral responsibility for the whole range of possible outcomes […] There is no virtuous innermost America, sullied or besmirched or shaded by these murders. This is America. It is not broken. It is doing what it does.
It’s hard to look at but when it’s stated that clearly, it’s equally hard to just ignore.
No question, this has been a bad year for America’s self-perception. And it’s about time, for sure.
The thing is though, there’s no assurance that honest confrontation with the real implications of what we can no longer deny will lead to some better America.
What is beyond doubt, however, is that getting right with history will necessarily involve scary upheaval.
SCARY UPHEAVAL will be the subject of Part 2, soon to follow…
 And outsourced, just by the way, for literal execution to (you guessed it) Halliburton through its subsidiaries KBR and Blackwater. Name the next government “report” Torture for God and Profit: Dick Cheney’s Walk on the Darkside.
 Recall, for example, W’s many red-faced, table –pounding, cowboy-speak fulminations about our duty to enforce the rule of law on Iraq and Sadam Hussein. For that matter, recall Barack Obama’s almost worshipful Rule of Law incantations even as he (not so) secretly carried out hostile “signature” drone executions within the borders of sovereign foreign nations.
 Okay, so it didn’t just catch my eye. It was pointed out to me by a family member who knows both the blog’s author and me. I don’t wish to be cryptic (well, yeah, actually I do), but my sense is that the author is not entirely comfortable with cross-commenting on each other’s stuff. So, I’ll half respect his unstated (and only surmised on my part) preference.