Finally, a public acknowledgment of US torture practices

A new bipartisan commission reports on what many of us knew for a long time but some in the media chose to ignore, that the US was systematically and massively practicing torture at the same time that top government officials from president Bush on down were denying that they were doing so and claiming high moral reasons, that it went against our values and so on.

The report also says that despite the widespread use of torture, it did not reveal useful information, which is the backup position of those who say they dislike torture but that it is necessary and effective. Furthermore, it says that the rot went deep and that there was complicity by the previous and current administrations, the media, and medical and legal personnel to enable and justify torture, and that the US government sent people to other countries to be tortured as well.

Dan Froomkin gives the highlights of the report.

What’s new and disturbing and important about the report from the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is how it calls attention to the absurd reality that we, as a country, are actually still arguing about any of this.

And for that, the report lays the blame fully at the feet of the current administration, for covering up what happened and stifling any sort of national conversation on the topic — and the media, for splitting the difference between the facts and the plainly specious argument made by torture regime’s architects that what occurred should be defined as something other than what it so obviously was.

The report points out, as I have in the past, that neither Obama nor Congress have done a thing to make sure that, the next time a perceived emergency comes up, some other president or vice president won’t decide to torture again.

Obama’s policy of “looking forward instead of looking backward,” in this light, is exposed as a cover-up that is actually holding the country back from a crucial period of self-understanding, and growth.

There’s also a matter of law. That U.S. officials involved with detention in the CIA’s black sites committed war crimes and violated international law, which the report concludes to be self-evident, isn’t something Obama is allowed to ignore.

The members of the Task Force are solidly establishment figures so the damning nature of the report is even more surprising. But president Obama will ignore it (maybe apart from a few pieties) and after an initial flurry of interest, much of the media will quickly bury this report. That’s how the system works, or not works as the case may be.

The Daily Show also had a piece on the report’s findings.

(This clip was aired on April 17, 2013. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)

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