Los Angeles Times, Abu Zubaydah's suffering:
He was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. Because the Bush administration believed him to be a senior Al Qaeda operative his detention and interrogation produced a fistful of firsts. As far as we can tell he is the only prisoner in U.S. history whose interrogation was the subject of debate and direct authorization within the White House and the first to disappear into a secret CIA “black site.”
He was the first prisoner in the “war on terror” to experience the full gamut of ancient techniques adapted by the communists in Korea and 50 years later approved by the Justice Department in Washington. He was the first prisoner to have his interrogations captured on videotape — a practice the CIA ended in late 2002. Two years later the agency destroyed 90 videotapes of Abu Zubaydah s interrogations which resulted in a criminal investigation of government officials connected with the program.
Many questions about his interrogation remain unanswered but two legs of the three-legged stool are firmly in place.
First they beat him. As authorized by the Justice Department and confirmed by the Red Cross they wrapped a collar around his neck and smashed him over and over against a wall. They forced his body into a tiny pitch-dark box and left him for hours. They stripped him naked and suspended him from hooks in the ceiling. They kept him awake for days.
And they strapped him to an inverted board and poured water over his covered nose and mouth to “produce the sensation of suffocation and incipient panic.” Eighty-three times. I leave it to others to debate whether we should call this torture. I am content with the self-evident truth that it was wrong.
Second his treatment was motivated by the bane of our post-9/11 world: rotten intel. The beat him because they believed he was evil. Not long after his arrest President Bush described him as “one of the top three leaders” in Al Qaeda and “Al Qaeda s chief of operations.” In fact the CIA brass at Langley Va. ordered his interrogators to keep at it long after the latter warned that he had been wrung dry.
In fact, he was “a personnel clerk.”
And there's more. It's all horrible.
We must investigate and prosecute those responsible for this atrocity.
The point is not that justice demands that those responsible at the highest levels be held accountable, although justice demands it — and more. The point is not that the victims of torture — some evil, some banal, some perhaps innocent — deserve recompense — although they might. The point is that we in whose name these barbarities were practiced, we who did not take up pitchforks and at least stand by the gates in protest, we owe it to ourselves to confront the truth then dishonor and punish those most responsible. We must make clear that we do not tacitly condone torture, or else we own it.
History teaches that even a firm housecleaning after the fact is at best a temporary vaccination against relapses of the hysteria, idiocy, and moral indifference that inspired this illegality. But it also teaches that lack of accountability ensures a rapid recidivism.