Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
December 12, 2014
Mr. President: The Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture was released
this week after a five-year investigation. It is both appalling and disgusting: appalling
that this country would stoop to such dehumanizing methods, and disgusting in its
The CIA in the person of its latest chief responds that the EITs (enhanced
interrogation techniques) -- they do not use the word 'torture' for fear it leaves their
agents open to international prosecution -- saved lives by foiling plots without
providing the 'wheres' and the 'hows'. If anyone still believes this, the question to ask
is, why would the CIA then try to hobble the Intelligence Committee? It hindered
access to documents, subjected the issuance to delays and redactions, even hacked
the Committee's computers. And if the methods worked, why did not the CIA lay out
the evidence before the committee, or even its ranking members?
Then too, if the methods were as successful as claimed, why did Khalid Sheikh
Mohammad and others have to be water-boarded again and again? -- in his case
over a hundred times.
Above all, the methods are illegal. The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights
said the US (along with 155 other countries) was a signatory to the Convention
Against Torture which allows no exceptional circumstances whatsoever and neither ...
"a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public
emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture." The treaty requires that
officials be held accountable for torture.
According to Ben Emmerson, the British lawyer, who is the UN special rapporteur on
Counter-terrorism and human rights, "it is no defense for a public official to claim they
were acting on superior orders. CIA officers who physically committed acts of torture
bear individual criminal responsibility for this conduct and cannot hide behind the
authorization they were given by their superiors." How can the world's policeman,
maintain the needed credibility and moral authority, if he does not obey the worlds'
laws? Mr. Emmerson continued, "the heaviest penalties must be reserved for those
most seriously implicated in the planning and purported authorization of these crimes".
The fact that the US is not the only country that can bring charges is what has
frightened some of our leading former public officials into an internal exile. After all, it
was an indictment, by a Spanish prosecutor, based on the Convention Against
Torture that led to the arrest of General Augusto Pinochet in London.
It is the "most seriously implicated" who are now clogging up the airwaves airing the
purported intelligence rewards of these crimes, always in terms of keeping us safe
without disclosing specifics or offering concrete evidence. The ticking time bomb
argument always comes out. If there ever were such a case, it would make sense for
the perpetrator to mislead under torture to relieve him and to allow time for the device
to function. It is clearly not a valid exercise.
As for misleading or false information, there was tons of it obtained under torture for
obvious reasons -- individuals will say anything to stop the agony. Following up these
leads becomes a huge time-wasting effort.
And how did the world react to the report? With a yawn -- contrary to the dangers we
were being forewarned of by the culpable actors. Everyone knows about it; they have
seen the pictures. Who wants to pore through reams of bureaucratic language --
other than journalists, interested NGOs and activists.