Regarding Torture, Spying, and Our Enabling, Complicit Silence

So Politico does a story on the Guardian and the Washington Post winning the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the documents and files taken by former National Security Agency contract employee Edward Snowden that revealed the extent of the NSA's gathering of heaping piles of yummy data on each and every one of us who uses electronics for communication. The article's author, Dylan Byers, quotes people who are angry about Snowden's whistleblowing. One of those is quoted is John Yoo, described as "a former deputy assistant attorney general and author of the 2002 memos advising the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques." The Rude Pundit has described him as "a piece of shit." One description does not negate the other, and, indeed, they seem to work well together.

As you might imagine, Yoo was not exactly thrilled. He said, "I’m not surprised the Pulitzer committee gave The Washington Post a prize for pursuing a sensationalist story, even when the story is a disaster for its own country...I don’t think we need automatically read the prize as a vindication for Snowden’s crimes." Huh, the Rude Pundit thought, if there's a man who knows something about abiding crimes that cause a disaster for our country, it's John Yoo. He's a dude who charmingly believes that the President has the right to order torture, even of children, if the President deems it necessary to protect the security of the United States, and he still supports the very program that "damaged the United States' global reputation."

As more and more is revealed, like that above quote, from the still-classified Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's "enhanced interrogation," or "torture" program, the likelihood is still that not only will no one ever be punished for, as one of the conclusions reads, "conditions of confinement for CIA detainees [that] were brutal and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers" and for outright lying to Congress, but that the entire episode will be tossed onto the shitpile of historical blindness. Except as pages in some book about this shameful age, it will never be confronted, never be grappled with, only repressed like a secret desire for snuff porn, for getting off on the disembowelment of young boys (known as "Cheneying").

Remember: all the awful things that you've heard about, all those "techniques," like waterboarding, stress positions, extreme heat and cold, placement into cramped spaces, that that's the shit that was done by the CIA. That's the shit that was approved by government lawyers like John Yo and Alberto Gonzales, the shit that has memos written about it, the shit that George W. Bush's torture apologists like Marc Thiessen desperately justify so they keep the demons that claw at their consciences at bay. It leaves out the black sites, where the CIA sent detainees to be tortured off the books, in Syria, in Poland, on an island owned by Great Britain, at a secret hidden compartment of Guantanamo Bay, with beatings and electric shock and the usual array of horrors.

Our silence as a nation has allowed so much to continue. There's the joke trials at the still-open Gitmo detention center, where the FBI turned a defense attorney into a secret informant, creating a situation that veers from tragedy to farce in prosecuting people who might actually be responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And, yes, there's the Snowden documents, which reveal the gratuitous paranoia, a national mental illness, that we are forced to exist with.

Ultimately, our failure to demand a reckoning merely enables the continuation of the abuses. Yes, Barack Obama ended the torture program, but, fuck, if no one's going to the Hague for it, what's to stop another president from starting it back up? Obama himself feels he has broad discretion to spy. What kind of precedent has been set here?

Except for a few dissenting voices, almost all of this has been met with a collective shrug and a "Meh, what are you gonna do?" Our mass silence is our complicity. And the feeling that we truly can't do anything about it even if we wanted to is the supreme victory by the powerful to render us powerless.