Unless one has been subjected to torture oneself, it is impossible to get an accurate sense of what it must be like to be subjected to it, which is why one can dismiss out of hand the excuses given by torture apologists that it is little more than fraternity hazing, although that is bad enough. Torture is evil and those who committed it, provided the authorization for it, and gave the orders for it should all be prosecuted.
This article by someone who actually committed torture shows that being up close to it also has a deeply negative effect even if one was not at the receiving end, and of his struggle to find ways to atone. One has to be a thoroughgoing sociopath to not have some negative effect on one’s psyche for so harshly abusing another human being.
Late in the summer of 2005, I returned from Iraq for the second time. My conscience was poisoned, my moral code shattered. I resigned my position with the National Security Agency the following year and returned home to Pennsylvania in an effort to address the consequences of my actions. Eight years later, the struggle continues.
I’m dealing with my own burdens now. My marriage is struggling. My effectiveness as a parent is deteriorating. My son is suffering. I am no longer the person I once was. I try to repent. I work to confess. I hope for atonement.
He says that the US must ‘open the book’ on torture and openly and honestly look at what was done, however hard the truth may be to take. But the struggle over releasing even a summary of the Senate’s torture report suggests that we are far from doing that.
Other countries may go through a process of ‘truth and reconciliation’ where people who commit atrocities come forward and confess their crimes in return for being accepted back into the fold of society. But the US is above all that. It’s leaders and many of its people are so convinced that they are ‘the shining light on the hill’ that can do no wrong and others should emulate, and that whatever they do is for the greater good, that the thought of confessing to wrongdoing and asking forgiveness would never even occur to them.