Millions of Americans don't care that the Bush-Cheney White House ordered CIA torture of captured Muslim suspects in the aftermath of the historic 2011 suicide terror attack. Many folks feel a patriotic surge wiping out concern for the torture victims.
However, something deeper is involved: America's honor. Like most of the world's nations, the United States solemnly signed a Geneva treaty outlawing torture as heinous and barbaric. Congress also passed the Anti-Torture Statute and the War Crimes Act. Yet the White House trampled laws and treaty alike.
After a two-year study, the Task Force on Detainee Treatment, a bipartisan commission with outstanding Republican leaders, has issued a 576-page report declaring that "it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture."
The report indicates that information gleaned from such questioning is mostly worthless, because torture victims will say anything to escape their agony. It says CIA torture puts American soldiers and diplomats abroad in peril because they may be seized for retaliatory treatment. The report scoffs at a Bush White House legal memo saying the Geneva treaty against torture didn't apply to U.S. treatment of captives.
Torture -- such as half-strangulation by waterboarding and torment by extreme deprivation -- "occurred in many instances and across a wide range of theaters," it says, adding: "The United States may not declare a nation guilty of engaging in torture and then exempt itself from being so labeled for similar if not identical conduct."
For years, some Democrats in Congress sought to create a "truth commission" to investigate CIA torture. When they failed, the Constitution Project launched the task force led by figures such as former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., who was undersecretary for homeland security under George W. Bush, and Thomas Pickering, who was U.N. Ambassador under George H.W. Bush.
Hutchinson told Democracy Now the panel found plenty of "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment." Pickering wrote in the The Washington Post that it's absurd to call these practices "enhanced interrogation techniques." He said concealment of the CIA's record "has contributed to a disturbing level of public support for torturing suspected terrorists."
Washington Post columnist Jonathan Bernstein wrote: "It's been clear for years that, to put it bluntly, the national security policy of the George W. Bush administration was composed in part of war crimes and that high officials, probably including the president himself, may be criminally liable."Four months ago, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence finished a 6,000-page report on CIA torture -- but kept it secret, hidden from Americans. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is a top-ranking member of that committee. He should use his influence to bring sunshine and let Americans know what their government did.