Sunday, May 01, 2005

Even more appalling

Now this is truly, truly, truly appalling. Sadly, I cannot say that I am surprised.
Seven months before Sept. 11, 2001, the State Department issued a human rights report on Uzbekistan. It was a litany of horrors.

The police repeatedly tortured prisoners, State Department officials wrote, noting that the most common techniques were "beating, often with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask." Separately, international human rights groups had reported that torture in Uzbek jails included boiling of body parts, using electroshock on genitals and plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers. Two prisoners were boiled to death, the groups report.

Now there is growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department. ... Uzbekistan's role as a surrogate jailer for the United States was confirmed by a half-dozen current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the prisoner transfer program, but an intelligence official estimated that the number of terrorism suspects sent by the United States to Tashkent was in the dozens. ... There is other evidence of the United States' reliance on Uzbekistan in the program. On Sept. 21, 2003, two American-registered airplanes - a Gulfstream jet and a Boeing 737 - landed at the international airport in Tashkent, according to flight logs obtained by The New York Times. [Emphases added.]
The non-answer answer from a CIA official is possibly even worse:
A senior C.I.A. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he would not discuss whether the United States had sent prisoners to Uzbekistan or anywhere else. But he said: "The United States does not engage in or condone torture. It does not send people anywhere to be tortured. And it does not knowingly receive information derived from torture."
If they're going to send people to be tortured, at least they could say so, so we could openly debate the merits of torture (though there are none, in my view). Instead we get a bland lie and a misleading dodge about "not knowingly" receiving information derived by boiling prisoners alive. (As Henry Farrell notes, this is nothing more than a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.)

I find it so hard to be shocked by this administration's actions anymore, so when I first saw this story, I thought "ho hum, more torture by the Bush administration." But of course, we can't let our moral sense be dulled by long-term exposure to atrocity. This is the United States of America. We're supposed to be the good guys.

Hilzoy poignantly asks a question I have thought a lot since the last election: "What has happened to our country?"


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