The Torture Report: The Game and How We Played It

The Rude Pundit wants to return to the story he told yesterday of Janat Gul, one of 26 men who were completely and utterly innocent, but were tortured by the CIA in order to squeeze out some “information” on some “threat.”  Others have discussed Gul now, about how he was grabbed in Afghanistan or Pakistan based on a single source saying, “That fucker, Janat Gul, he’s into some shit,” how some in the CIA thought he was a worthless target, how he was renditioned to a black site in Romania, how Condoleezza Rice her very own self signed off on his “enhanced interrogation,” about how he was so interrogated until his interrogators were convinced he knew nothing, and how they were told to interrogate him some more.

The one thing that ought to be emphasized in Gul’s story is that, when the CIA finally realized that Gul was “a very simple man” and not a big bad, the spooks decided to say that the interrogation had been worthwhile because it proved that their source was a liar.  Once again: it was cool to torture the shit out of Janat Gul because it made them know not to trust another guy.   That is some monstrous fuckery right there.

But there’s something else afoot in the Gul story, indeed, in the entire report, indeed, in nearly the entire operation of our alleged counterterrorism industrial complex.  Some in the CIA believed that there were terror attacks likely before the 2004 election and that Gul was the facilitator.  Then-CIA Director George Tenet informed Rice, so the information went right to the White House.  We know from then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that there was pressure from Bush advisers to raise the national threat level before the election, perhaps to panic people into clinging to the failed president.  Hmmm.

One of the things we see again and again is that torture is for shit when you want new information, but it’s excellent at getting people to say things you need them to say.  The torture program was a failure at stopping any supposed “plots,” but it was great to give our leaders something to talk about.  We know that men were tortured into saying that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  We know we tortured men into saying other things to keep policies in place.  We’ve known that for a few years now.  And now we know that the CIA knew the information was bogus and that the method they were using to extract it was fucked-up (see the “Shh, Don’t Tell Colin Powell” part of the report).

Sometimes you just want a reason to justify your existence to others.  The CIA tortured one poor bastard into saying he made anthrax and then reported that they had discovered a guy who said he made anthrax.  Except, of course, the true story, on page 82, is a bit different: “On August 1, 2003, Abu Bakr al-Filistini, also known as Samr al-Barq, told CIA interrogators that ‘we never made anthrax.’  At the time, he was being subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and was told that the harsh treatment would not stop until he ‘told the truth.’  According to cables, crying, al-Barq then said, ‘I made the anthrax.’  Asked if he was lying, al-Barq said that he was.  After CIA interrogators ‘demonstrated the penalty for lying,’al-Barq again stated that ‘I made the anthrax’ and then immediately recanted, and then again stated that he made anthrax.”  Now, either al-Barq was fucking with the people torturing him, which makes him admirably ballsy, or he couldn’t figure out what the hell they wanted and would tell them anything.

Either way, the CIA reported on “Al-Qa’ida’s Anthrax Program,” so mission accomplished.

The Rude Pundit is no conspiracy theorist.  But how are we supposed to take all this?  Between the threat level manipulation, the bullshit FBI-created terror cells, and the use of the statements of torture victims to justify policy, what can we think but that this entire system exists to keep us paranoid and beholden to those in power in ways that make the supposed tyranny of the Affordable Care Act look like a laissez-faire carnival?  What can we think but that this all existed and, in other ways, exists to keep people in power and, indeed, make some people very rich (someone’s gotta make those drones)?  Someone’s gotta pay. Someone’s gotta go to jail.

Someone’s gotta be held accountable.  It ain’t enough to say that shit happened.  Because then all you’re saying is that “Shit happened.”  The torture report is worthless without at least some symbolic scapegoat – Rumsfeld, please?

There is a reason that you sacrifice people to keep the volcano gods happy.  You don’t do it because the volcano gives a shit.  You do it because the villagers need to know that at least you tried something.

Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on December 10, 2014, on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.

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