" I Was (We Were) Following Orders" Just Ain't Good Enough
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, many Americans believe America lost her innocence.
For the first time ever, an attack by foreign nationals, orchestrated on the U.S. mainland occurred, giving birth to the rationale that, when it comes to protecting the United States of America, anything goes as long as it is done in the name of keeping America safe.
The view of actions always held as proof of the barbarity of dictators and rulers, found around the world on all continents, who engaged in what had been a matter of policy for years, with the actions of those dictators and rulers said to be the 'low road' traveled by those who previously governed the United States, had changed.
Those actions employed by these leaders, methods touted by the United States as proof of its superiority in that it, the United States, did not engage in the use of their tactics, after 9/11, using contrived, misleading language, torture was now being used as a matter of practice by America in known and secret locations around the world.
It appears those who were on the front lines in a process that tortured prisoners held by the United States, in known and secret locations around the world and those who were responsible for those on the front lines, may be able to pronounce the words that have been offered by so many in other circumstances in the past:
“I was just following orders”, a declaration that would grant immediate absolution without discussion.
What dwelled at the heart of the Bush administration's torture policy concerns, for those within the Bush administration that sought to justify its use, was not “ .... should we use torture?” but, “ .... how can clarifying statements and language be used to buttress what we want to allow those in the field to do?”
Time after time, the Bush administration's Department of Justice used its authority to craft, not advise but, craft, position papers, granting plausible deniability to any and all who, in the future, may be called upon to answer for their actions;
“We were told this was acceptable; we were just following orders.”
It might be stated that upon viewing the heavily redacted documents released by the Obama administration, over the intelligence community's objections, that one cannot see the full scope of the matters covered by the documents and that would be a fair assessment.
Yet, it can, without a doubt, be ascertained that, those who would be deemed soldiers following orders from the top, from which the 'guidelines' for torture were disseminated, it is a specious directive that states the criterion for what makes torturous acts truly torture and a criminal offense is only when those engaged in the activity “ .... intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody of physical control.”
Most would come to understand that as persons are waterboarded, simulating drowning, slamming the heads of those in custody against walls, to name two actions known to have been used on those detained by the United States, the criterion given comes down to a splitting of hairs and the definition that may be offered for the word 'severe', serving to qualify or distinguish all other types of pain not deemed severe.
My understanding is the word severe, in this context, used to describe physical and mental pain or suffering, most likely would mean causing distress. How does one gauge at what point pain is severe? That seems to be a tolerance question.
Could or would signs of struggling or outcries, assuming those being 'interrogated' are able to cry out, are these signals, when observed by those during the process of 'interrogation', viewed as possible signs of distress, relating to " .... severe physical or mental pain or suffering ...."?
Medical personnel on site, gauging the condition of those tortured, conjures images of any and all scenarios practiced by those nations with which the U.S. previously claimed no comparison.
All who engaged in the torture of those held, the front line soldiers, the interrogators, their commanders, were given the support and sanction of their actions by their government, the United States of America, by the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ), with a pipeline of communication established through the National Security Agency (NSA).
“I was (We were) just following orders” may be an honest statement uttered by those involved in the practice of torture who took their lead from the top but, those at the top who directed the practice to occur during their stewardship of America, those who crafted and approved the orders, cannot offer that excuse.
Documents released, through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
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Negros Oriental, Philippines