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Where Is the Outrage?

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Editor's Note:

Robert Sheer is a veteran journalist who used to write 
for the LA Times. He has been writing for over 35 years. 

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                   Video Clip Of The Week

                  O'Reilly Distorts History

In this segment, we see how history is distorted by people 
like Bill O'Reilly. He actually accuses U.S. GI's of a 
massacre that the Nazi's committed. I guess this is the 
'no spin zone.' 

View: O'Reilly Distorts History
   
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Where Is the Outrage? - by Robert Scheer

Are we Americans truly savages or merely tone-deaf in 
matters of morality, and therefore more guilty of terminal 
indifference than venality? It's a question demanding an 
answer in response to the publication of the detailed 370-
page report on U.S. complicity in torture, issued last week 
by the Justice Department's inspector general. 

Because the report was widely cited in the media and easily 
accessed as a pdf file on the Internet, it is fair to 
assume that those of our citizens who remain ignorant of 
the extent of their government's commitment to torture as 
an official policy have made a choice not to be informed. 
A less appealing conclusion would be that they are aware 
of the heinous acts fully authorized by our president but 
conclude that such barbarism is not inconsistent with that 
American way of life that we celebrate.

But that troubling assessment of moral indifference is 
contradicted by the scores of law enforcement officers, 
mostly from the FBI, who were so appalled by what they 
observed as routine official practice in the treatment of 
prisoners by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and 
Guantanamo that they risked their careers to officially 
complain. A few brave souls from the FBI even compiled a 
"war crimes file," suggesting the unthinkable — that we 
might come to be judged as guilty by the standard we have 
imposed on others. Superiors in the Justice Department soon 
put a stop to such FBI efforts to hold CIA agents and other 
U.S. officials accountable for the crimes they committed. 

That this systematic torture was carried out not by a few 
conveniently described "bad apples" but rather represented 
official policy condoned at the highest level of government 
was captured in one of those rare media reports that remind 
us why the Founding Fathers signed off on the First 
Amendment. 

"These were not random acts," The New York Times editorial-
ized. "It is clear from the inspector general's report that 
this was organized behavior by both civilian and military 
interrogators following the specific orders of top 
officials. The report shows what happens when an American 
president, his secretary of defense, his Justice Department 
and other top officials corrupt American law to rationalize 
and authorize the abuse, humiliation and torture of 
prisoners."

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One of those top officials, who stands revealed in the 
inspector general's report as approving the torture policy, 
is Condoleezza Rice, who in her capacity as White House 
national security adviser turned away the concerns of 
then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft as to the severe 
interrogation measures being employed. Rice, as ABC-TV 
reported in April, chaired the top-level meetings in 2002 
in the White House Situation Room that signed off on the 
CIA treatment of prisoners — "whether they would be 
slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to 
simulated drowning, called water boarding..." According 
to the report, the former academic provost of Stanford 
University came down on the side of simulated drowning.

As further proof that women are not necessarily more 
squeamish than men in condoning such practices, the report 
offers examples of sexual and religious denigration of the 
mostly Muslim prisoners by female interrogators carrying 
out an official policy of "invasion of space by a female." 
In one recorded instance observed by startled FBI agents, 
a female interrogator was seen with a prisoner "bending 
his thumbs back and grabbing his genitals... to cause him 
pain." One of the agents testified that this was not "a 
case of a rogue interrogator acting on her own." He said 
he witnessed a "pep rally" meeting conducted by a top 
Defense Department official "in which the interrogators 
were encouraged to get as close to the torture statute 
line as possible."

That was evidently the norm, according to FBI agents who 
witnessed the interrogations. As The New York Times 
reported, "One bureau memorandum spoke of 'torture 
techniques' used by military interrogators. Agents 
described seeing things like inmates handcuffed in a 
fetal position for up to 24 hours, left to defecate on 
themselves, intimidated by dogs, made to wear women's 
underwear and subjected to strobe lights and extreme 
heat and cold." 

In the end, what seems to have most outraged the hundreds 
of FBI agents interviewed for the report is that the 
interrogation tactics were counterproductive. Evidently 
the FBI's long history in such matters had led to a 
protocol that stressed gaining the confidence of witnesses 
rather than terrorizing them into madness. But an insane 
prisoner is the one most likely to tell this president of 
the United States what he wants to hear: They hate us for 
our values. 

Robert Scheer's new book, "The Pornography of Power: How 
Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," will 
be released June 9 by Twelve.

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