Torture? We don’t torture. Sometimes our enhanced, but perfectly legal, interrogation techniques may result in death or severe mental disorders, but remember we are dealing with ruthless terrorists who will come into your bedrooms at 3:00 am and behead you and your children with a rusty butcher’s knife without a second thought. So, once in while, to quote a famous American Secretary of Defense, in order to protect us over here, stuff happens over there (h/t to Digby):

The American Civil Liberties Union has obtained previously withheld documents from the Defense Department, including internal investigations into the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody overseas. Uncensored documents released as a result of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit shed light on the deaths of detainees in Iraq and internal disagreement within the military over harsh interrogation practices used at Guantánamo Bay.

“These documents provide further evidence that the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad was not aberrational, but was widespread and systemic,” said Amrit Singh, a staff attorney with the ACLU. “They only underscore the need for an independent investigation into high-level responsibility for prisoner abuse.”

One of the documents released to the ACLU is a list of at least four prisoner deaths that were the subject of Navy Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) investigations. The NCIS document contains new information about the deaths of some of these prisoners, including details about Farhad Mohamed, who had contusions under his eyes and the bottom of his chin, a swollen nose, cuts and large bumps on his forehead when he died in Mosul in 2004. The document also includes details about Naem Sadoon Hatab, a 52-year-old Iraqi man who was strangled to death at the Whitehorse detainment facility in Nasiriyah in June 2003; the shooting death of Hemdan El Gashame in Nasiriyah in March 2003; and the death of Manadel Jamadi during an interrogation after his head was beaten with a stove at Abu Ghraib in November 2003. […]

Another document obtained by the ACLU provides further context to objections raised by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) about the use of harsh interrogation methods applied on Guantánamo prisoners. The memo prepared for CITF commander Brittain Mallow appears to have been drafted for September 2002, and identifies “unacceptable methods” involving “threats,” “discomfort,” and “sensory deprivation,” while also providing guidance to CITF agents on permissible interrogation methods for use on detainees. The memo suggests that CITF expressed disapproval of abusive methods used at Guantánamo as far back as September 2002. In December 2002, Mallow instructed his unit not to participate in “any questionable” interrogation techniques at the facility.

Beaten with a stove? Strangled to death? Shot? Bashed in skull? All while in the hands of American authorities. All likely to never be investigated, or the perpetrators punished. And by perpetrators I include the folks who sat in that White House conference room and signed off on these “enhanced interrogation techniques” with nary a discouraging word. The ultimate Star Chamber operating out of one of America’s iconic symbols and the literal home of America’s Presidents since John Adams. Something tells me that even the President who signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts would look askance at what the Executive branch of our national government has become in the first decade of the 21st Century.

If we don’t investigate the full perfidy and horror of the Bush years, ladies and gents, all this will happen again. Because history repeats itself, especially when it is the history of evil deeds perpetrated in secret by one’s own government. Only next time it might not be some “swarthy skinned foreigner” whose fate too many Americans could care less about. Next time it could be you. Just ask the Argentinians. Or the Russians. Or the victims of Mao’s cultural revolution. A precedent has been established. What we do about it in the future will make all the difference to whether we remain a “free country” or one that allows our government to take any action, commit any crime, in the interests of “national security.”

Will we face the fact that we have been under the rule of war criminals? Will we investigate and expose their crimes or will we hide from the awful truth of what was done in our names? The onus is on us now. Nothing can be done to give the victims of Bush’s security state their lives back, or erase the horrible memories of those who are still alive, but forever changed. But we can choose to open up this wound to our national honor, force each of us to consider its horrific inhumanity, and take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in our and our children’s lifetimes. We know that some individuals in our government saw what was happening and refused to accept it or participate in it. So we know that there were officials who objected to the path of immorality they saw the Bush administration eagerly walk down. Yet their voices have been silenced. Let’s not let our voices stay silent now that evidence of these horrors is finally seeing the light of day.

The choice is ours. Let your Congressional representatives know that you don’t want the Bush crimes swept under the rug come 2009. Because if you don’t act, you can be assured they won’t.

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