No one gets up in the morning, pulls on their socks, and thinks, â€œToday Iâ€™m going to be evil.â€
Everyone, absolutely everyone, from nurses tending to Ebola patients to killers for hire, thinks theyâ€™re the good guy.
Everyone makes up a narrative that justifies what they do.
That includes the CIA agents and contractors who spent almost a decade systematically torturing prisoners. They were fighting terrorism, keeping the world safe for democracy. They did that by locking up people without trial, and by inflicting pain.
The U.S. Senate has just released its voluminous report on torture conducted in its network of secret jails for suspected terrorists. Suspectsâ€™ rights were violated on a massive scale â€“ they were held for months in barren cells, with buckets for toilets, shackled to walls, kept in near-freezing conditions.
They were subjected to â€œenhanced interrogation techniques,â€ a polite euphemism for beatings, near-drownings, and psychological torment of every kind. The CIA paid two â€œconsultantsâ€ $81 million to come up with tortures and to help carry them out.
An incomplete partial list is necessary here, because merely repeating â€œtortureâ€ does not convey the awfulness of what was done. Be advised, this is ugly stuff.
â€¢ CIA employees played â€œRussian rouletteâ€ with at least one inmate.
â€¢ They made another inmate stand on broken feet.
â€¢ Inmates were kept awake more than 180 hours, resulting in terrifying hallucinations.
â€¢ Several detainees were locked in small boxes for hours at a time. One man was locked in what amounted to a coffin.
â€¢ Prisonersâ€™ families were threatened, including threats to rape or murder their mothers.
â€¢ Prisoners were slapped in the face and stomach, or â€œwalled,â€ which is being held by the collar and slammed face first into a wall.
â€¢ At least one prisoner froze to death.
â€¢ Several prisoners were given â€œfoodâ€ or water rectally, or suffered â€œrectal exams.â€ If this was done in Canada, the criminal charge would likely be sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault. To make it perfectly clear, the CIA paid people to rape prisoners.
There are plenty of apologists for this treatment. Those people can go to hell.
Hereâ€™s a handy guide to whether torture is justified: Is it torture? Then no, it is not justified.
It is never justified.
It wouldnâ€™t be justified if it worked (which it doesnâ€™t).
It wouldnâ€™t be justified if the victims were the scum of humanity (which many of them werenâ€™t). One of the detainees was the mentally challenged brother of another prisoner, kidnapped solely to force his sibling to provide information.
What will happen to the people responsible for this?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There are really no plans, as far as I know, to arrest, try, or jail any of the people responsible for a decadeâ€™s worth of atrocities. The CIA will protect its own, and plenty of Americans think the victims had it coming, anyway.
But surely this is the end of U.S. sponsored torture, right?
Of course not. If it isnâ€™t still going on now â€“ the CIA lied to the White House and Congress repeatedly before â€“ then it will start up again soon.
Thereâ€™ll be another terrorist act, and it will be â€œnecessary.â€
Because there are no bad guys. Everyoneâ€™s righteous. Get up and go out, blow up a plane or a truckload of soldiers, half-drown a man and beat him, itâ€™s all in a dayâ€™s work for the good guys.