Torturers aren’t “patriots” Mr. President, they’re torturers

abu-faraj-al-libiPresident Obama has on at least two occasions called the torturers among us “patriots” or at least strongly implied that is his view.

On August 1, the President stated:

[E]ven before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.

I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

The New York Times reported Wednesday:

[I]n a written statement and a pair of television interviews after the report was released on Tuesday, Mr. Obama stressed his respect for the “patriots” of the C.I.A. who worked to guard the nation in an uncertain and dangerous period, even as he concluded that the methods they used “did significant damage to America’s standing in the world.”

From Wednesday’s Erik Wemple blog in the Washington Post:

[O]n Aug. 4, 2002, the CIA launched a round-the-clock interrogation assault [against Abu Zubaida] — slamming him against walls, stuffing him into a coffin-size box and waterboarding him until he coughed, vomited, and had ‘involuntary spasms of the torso and extremities,’ ” wrote The Post. “The treatment continued for 17 days. At one point, the waterboarding left Abu Zubaida ‘completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.’”

At least one agent has testified that the previously cooperative Zubaida shut down in response to the CIA torture.

As they inflicted pain on prisoners, the CIA patriots made us less safe.  Previously cooperative witnesses clammed up.  Our moral authority was squandered.  People around the world are understandably more distrustful of our good will and therefore more prepared to do us harm.  It’s hard for me to see any patriotism in this ugly chapter of American cruelty and sadism.  But maybe a few waterboard sessions would open my eyes.

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