Trained Killers, from the Americas to Afghanistan

For most Americans the death squads and torture chambers that killed thousands in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in the 1980’s are difficult to understand and easy to forget because, aside for an apology by President Bill Clinton in 1999 – the United States has never fully acknowledged nor taken responsibility for its role … Continue reading “Trained Killers, from the Americas to Afghanistan”

Why Latin America Didn’t Join Washington’s Torture Posse

There was a scarcely noted but classic moment in the Senate hearings on the nomination of John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism “tsar,” to become the next CIA director.  When Senator Carl Levin pressed him repeatedly on whether waterboarding was torture, he ended his reply this way: “I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible … Continue reading “Why Latin America Didn’t Join Washington’s Torture Posse”

Crackpot Pragmatism: Richard Cohen and Torture

It’s 2013 and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is still conflicted about torture. Why? The proximate cause is that he went to the movies, and saw "Zero Dark Thirty," which impressed upon some viewers the efficacy of torture in unearthing the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Cohen considers the movie "fantastic," Oscar worthy "in the … Continue reading “Crackpot Pragmatism: Richard Cohen and Torture”

The Moral Torment of Leon Panetta

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a practicing Catholic, sought a blessing on Wednesday from Pope Benedict XVI. Afterward Panetta reported that the Pope said, “Thank you for helping to keep the world safe” to which Panetta replied, “Pray for me.” In seeking those prayers, Panetta knows better than the Pope what moral compromises have surrounded him … Continue reading “The Moral Torment of Leon Panetta”

How Zero Dark Thirty Brought Back the Bush Administration

We got Osama bin Laden — and now, for millions of Americans, we’ll get him again onscreen as Zero Dark Thirty hits your neighborhood multiplex.  Lauded and criticized, the film’s the talk of the town.  But it’s hardly the only real-life CIA film that needed to be made.  Here, for the record, are five prospective … Continue reading “How Zero Dark Thirty Brought Back the Bush Administration”

The Grilling that Brennan Deserves

As Washington’s pundit class sees it, Defense Secretary-designee Chuck Hagel deserves a tough grilling over his hesitancy to go to war with Iran and his controversial detection of a pro-Israel lobby operating in the U.S. capital, but prospective CIA Director John Brennan should get only a few polite queries about his role helping to create … Continue reading “The Grilling that Brennan Deserves”

Excusing Torture, Again

Would-be tough guys like former CIA torturer-in-chief José A. Rodriguez Jr. brag that “enhanced interrogation” of terrorists – or doing what the rest of us would call “torturing” – has made Americans safer by eliciting tidbits of information that advanced the search for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Rodriguez makes this case again in the … Continue reading “Excusing Torture, Again”

Torture Superpower

On New Year’s Eve 2003, Khaled el-Masri, an unemployed car salesman from Germany on vacation in Macedonia, was removed from a bus and kidnapped by the CIA due to a confusion of names. His evidently bore some similarity to an al-Qaeda suspect the Agency wanted to get its hands on. Five months later, after spending … Continue reading “Torture Superpower”

Our 9/11 Torturers

I hope you know that, on the 11th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, you live in a country so exceptional it’s blessed by God; that, in fact, it’s — no point in pulling punches — “the greatest nation on earth.” If you don’t believe me, just listen to President Obama, who used … Continue reading “Our 9/11 Torturers”

Politics Subvert the All-Important Rule of Law

One of the most important issues in the 2012 election is a non-issue because both parties want to ignore it: punishment for Bush-era human rights violations by torture. Nevertheless, in a country where the rule of law (that is, we are all supposed to be equal before the law) should be paramount, it is vital … Continue reading “Politics Subvert the All-Important Rule of Law”