Bush’s Pentagon Papers
The Urge to Confess
By Tom Engelhardt
They can’t help themselves. They want to confess.
How else to explain the torture memorandums that continue to flow out of the inner sancta of this administration, the most recent of which were evidently leaked to the New York Times. Those two, from the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department, were written in 2005 and recommitted the administration to the torture techniques it had been pushing for years. As the Times noted, the first of those memorandums, from February of that year, was “an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.” The second “secret opinion” was issued as Congress moved to outlaw “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” treatment (not that such acts weren’t already against U.S. and international law). It brazenly “declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard”; and, the Times assured us, “the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums.”
All of these memorandums, in turn, were written years after John Yoo’s infamous “torture memo” of August 2002 and a host of other grim documents on detention, torture, and interrogation had already been leaked to the public, along with graphic FBI emailed observations of torture and abuse at Guantanamo, those “screen savers” from Abu Ghraib, and so much other incriminating evidence. In other words, in early 2005 when that endorsement of “the harshest interrogation techniques” was being written, its authors could hardly have avoided knowing that it, too, would someday become part of the public record.
But, it seems, they couldn’t help themselves. Torture, along with repetitious, pretzled “legal” justifications for doing so, were bones that administration officials — from the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense on down — just couldn’t resist gnawing on again and again. So, what we’re dealing with is an obsession, a fantasy of empowerment, utterly irrational in its intensity, that’s gripped this administration. None of the predictable we’re shocked! we’re shocked! editorial responses to the Times latest revelations begin to account for this.
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