Perpetrators of torture need to be prosecuted
The release of the Senate report on CIA interrogations was a positive development, although a sickening read. After years of research on this issue, it was still shocking for me to learn of “rectal feeding,” confinement in coffin-like boxes and prolonged chaining of detainees from the ceiling. These abuses are torture.
A recent News editorial rightly noted that the United States “can do better” by learning from these “mistakes.” But the editorial was missing the one word that would lead to such enlightenment: “accountability.” Torture is a crime under U.S. and international law. Perpetrators of torture and those who authorize it should be prosecuted. Whether torture is “effective” is immaterial. It is always illegal, in all circumstances.
The editorial correctly opined that “no one ever learned from mistakes by running from them” and prescribed simple “self-reflection” as the way forward toward “improvement.” But learning from one’s mistakes requires being held accountable for them. It was the rare (non-existent?) parent in South Buffalo, where I grew up, who disciplined an errant child – especially one who had physically harmed another human being – by prescribing a “period of reflection.” We learned instead that there were consequences, often serious ones, for shameful behavior.
So it should be for the CIA operatives who so viciously abused detainees – and the superiors, who gave the green light to torture.
Without prosecutions, the United States creates an environment of impunity for these crimes. The crime against humanity of 9/11 should not be answered by more criminality, but with a renewed commitment to the rule of law.