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July 15, 2015
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Our Bewildering Descent into Torture
Can we agree
of dark secrets. The darkest, most highly
at war and we always will be. And war
is an end in itself. It has no purpose be-
BY R OBERT C. K OEHLER
yond its own perpetuation.
“The existence of the
This is the context of torture.
approximately 14,000 pho-
At least this is what occurred to me as
tographs will probably
cause yet another delay in
that the existence of many thousands of
the military commissions
photographs of U.S. black site opera-
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,
tions are out there somewhere, classi-
as attorneys for the defendants demand ¿HGEXWNQRZQDQGSXOVLQJ:KDWPRUHFDQ
that all the images are turned over and the we learn that we don’t already know?
government wades through the material to
“On Nov. 20, 2002, (Gul) Rahman was
decide what it thinks is relevant to the pro- found dead in his unheated cell. He was
naked from the waist down and had been
This was the Washington Post a few FKDLQHG WR D FRQFUHWH ÀRRU $Q DXWRSV\
days ago, informing us wearily that the tor- concluded that he probably froze to death.”
ture thing isn’t dead yet. The bureaucracy
So the Los Angeles Times informed us
convulses, the wheels of justice grind. So in December, in an article about two psy-
much moral relativism to evaluate.
chologists, Bruce Jessen and James Mitch-
“They did what they were asked to do in ell, who were serving their country in the
the service of our nation,” CIA director John early days of the War on Terror by develop-
Brennan said at a news conference in De- ing the CIA’s torture methodology.
cember, defending CIA interrogators after
“When he was left alone,” the article
a portion of the 6,700-page Senate Intelli- reported, describing another detainee’s ex-
gence Committee report was made public.
perience, “(Abu) Zubaydah was placed in a
Serving the nation means no more than stress position, left on a waterboard with a
doing what you’re told. Really?
cloth over his face, or locked in one of two
*RG EOHVV $PHULFD )ODJV ZDYH ¿UH- FRQ¿QHPHQWER[HV´
works burst on the horizon. Aren’t we
“In all, he spent 266 hours — 11 days
WHUUL¿F"%XWWKLVLGHDZHFHOHEUDWH²WKLV and two hours — locked in the pitch-dark
nation, this principled union of humanity FRI¿QDQGKRXUVLQDPXFKVPDOOHUER[
— is now just a military bureaucracy, full In response, he ‘cried,’ ‘begged,’ ‘whim-
pered’ and grew so distressed that ‘he was
unable to effectively communicate,’” the
interrogation team reported.
“The escalating torment, especially the
waterboarding, affected some on the CIA
team. ‘It is visually and psychologically
very uncomfortable,’ one wrote. Several
days later, another added, ‘Several on the
team profoundly affected … some to the
point of tears and choking up.’”
And a few weeks ago, The (U.K.) Tele-
graph, quoting from the Senate Intelli-
gence Committee Report, described the ex-
perience of Majid Khan, who “was raped
while in CIA custody (‘rectal feeding’).
He was sexually assaulted in other ways
as well, including by having his ‘private
parts’ touched while he was hung naked
from the ceiling …
“‘Majid had an uncovered bucket for a
toilet, no toilet paper, a sleeping mat and
no light … For much of 2003 he lived in
And the awkward part of all this, for
defenders of the military bureaucracy, is
that these torture procedures produced no
information of any value. We sold our soul
to the devil and got nothing at all in return.
Whatever details about the torture pro-
JUDP UHPDLQ FODVVL¿HG DQG EXULHG WKHVH
stories, along with plenty of shocking pho-
tographs, are fully public. There’s enough
data here to open a deep conversation about
what it means to be a nation and what the
limits of power ought to be. What I see in-
the part of media and government — to the
inevitability of out-of-control power in the
pursuit of self-defense.
Stanford researcher Philip Zimbardo—
whose studies are literally textbook--called
terly corrupting nature of total power over
others. Reports of CIA torture are rife with
observations that the interrogators were
out of control. The information they sought
from the utterly powerless detainees in
their keep was a treasure to be extracted,
like oil or diamonds from the bowels of the
earth, and no technique was too inhumane,
too morally odious, to achieve that end.
Call it human fracking. It’s for the good of
The awareness that must emerge from a
decade-and-counting of torture revelations
is that absolute power over others does not
keep us safe and should not be pursued.
And torture is only a minute fraction of the
wrong we promulgate through unchecked
militarism, the aim of which is domination
of the planet.
Step one in the unhealthy pursuit of
power is the dehumanization of “the ene-
my.” The consequences of what we do af-
ter that will always haunt us.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceV-
oice, is a Chicago journalist and editor.
The Amazing Grace of the Mother Emanuel Nine
Taking action against
racism and guns
M ARC H. M ORIAL
They represented the diversity
of life in Charleston, South Car-
olina. Some were teachers; some
were lawmakers; others were the
glue that bonded their families.
While they hailed from all walks
and stages of life, the nine innocents
slaughtered in the racist-fueled shooting
at the historic Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church shared a common faith.
Their devotion to cultivating that faith
gathered them together in the unques-
tioned safety of that church basement. In
the end, it would be in the unquestionable
embrace of the grace of their faith that
their weeping families, mournful church
family and our grieving nation bid them
Rev. Clementa Pinckney was a
long-serving Democratic state senator
and the senior pastor of Emanuel A.M.E.
Church. He fought as hard for constituents
as he did love and serve his congregation.
In his eulogy for Rev. Pinckney, Presi-
dent Obama remembered him as a “good
man.” He shared that, “he was in the pulpit
by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23.
He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of
youth, nor youth’s insecurities; instead, he
set an example worthy of his position, wise
beyond his years, in his speech, in his con-
duct, in his love, faith, and purity.”
The married, 41-year-old father
of two daughters leaves behind
an impressive record of activism,
including his recent push to equip
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with body cameras after the vid-
eotaped fatal shooting of a black
man at the hands of a white police
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was
as widely known for her smile as she
was for her dedication to her family, her
church and her community. The 45-year-
old mother of three was a reverend at
Emanuel A.M.E. Church; the celebrated
girls team track coach at Goose Creek
High School; and a highly respected high
school speech therapist. After her death,
her oldest son, Chris Singleton, a baseball
player at Charleston Southern University,
recalled on social media that he would of-
ten tease his mother about going to church
so much. He remembered that she would
always laugh him off and say, “Boy you
can never have too much of the Lord.”
It has been reported that 26-year-old
Tywanza Sanders died trying to protect his
87-year-old aunt, Susie Jackson. Sanders
jumped between the shooter and his aunt,
begging him to take his life instead of
hers. The shooter is alleged to have said it
didn’t matter because, “I’m going to shoot
was a recent graduate of Allen University
in Columbia, S.C. He received a degree in
business administration in 2014. Recent-
ly, he worked at Against Da Grain Barber-
shop along with his brother.
Despite his bravery and heroism, Sand-
ers could not save his aunt’s life. Susie
Jackson, a grandmother and longtime
church member, became another of the
shooter’s victims, along with her cousin,
70-year-old Ethel Lance. Like the others,
Lance was a devoted member of Emanuel
A.M.E. Church. She worked at the church
for more than 30 years.
Depayne Middletown Doctor was the
mother of four daughters. She was a min-
ister and sang in the church’s choir. The
49-year-old devoted her entire career
to public service. She had just started a
job as an enrollment counselor at South-
ern Wesleyan University’s campus in
Charleston—her alma mater. Before that,
she was a Charleston County community
development director, helping the coun-
ty’s poorest residents receive grants.
Equally dedicated to serving her com-
munity, 54-year-old Cynthia Hurd, who
was lovingly described by her brother as
“a woman of faith,” worked for 31 years
at the Charleston County Public Library
as a librarian. Recently, Hurd was the
regional library manager at St. Andrews
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in her honor.
On the path to becoming an ordained
minister, 59-year-old Myra Thompson
was the wife of a local reverend, Rev.
Anthony Thompson, who is a vicar at
Holy Trinity REC Church in Charleston.
Daniel Simmons initially survived the
attack, but died in a hospital operating
room. The 45-year-old was a fourth-gen-
eration preacher who fought in Vietnam,
and during his time with us on earth also
worked as a teacher and a counselor.
Simmons became the last of the Mother
Emanuel Nine to be laid to rest.
Today, we should all be asking ourselves
what happens now; what comes next? Do
we, as a nation, take up the charge to tackle
the ills of racism and gun violence, or will
we cast these issues aside once again and
wait until the next tragedy jolts us from our
Will you join in the struggle and sign
a petition to rid our public spaces of the
olence to which the shooter pledged his al-
legiance? Will you make the lives of those
we lost matter by not allowing hate to be
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form a more perfect union?
Marc H. Morial is president and chief
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