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The Senate Report on Torture and John McCain


On John McCain’s twenty-fourth bombing mission near Hanoi, he was shot down by a North Vietnamese rocket in late October, 1967. McCain was a prisoner of war for the next five and a half years.


While ejecting from his plane, McCain broke both arms and a leg. He nearly drowned upon landing by parachute in a nearby lake. His enemies saved him then crushed his shoulder with the butt of rifle, then they bayoneted him.


In the Hanoi Hilton, McCain was refused medical attention until the North Vietnamese realized he was the son of the commander of all U.S. forces in Viet Nam.Photo: www.rakerace.com


He was placed in solitary confinement for two years. He lost fifty pounds. His hair turned white. He attempted suicide.


McCain’s torture, in addition to two years of solitary confinement, consisted of being bound by ropes and beaten senseless every three hours. After awhile, the beating took place three times a week. He eventually made an anti-American “confession.”


Later, he said, "I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.”


Unsurprisingly, of the members of the United States Senate, John McCain is the only one to be tortured. The others members of the Senate think torture is when they must pick up their own dry cleaning: Or when they go for botox or another round of plastic surgery.


So what does the only person in the Senate to suffer torture have to say about The Torture Report?


On December 9th, this year, John McCain made remarks on the floor of the Senate concerning the Senate Report on Torture:


“Mr. President, I rise in support of the release – the long-delayed release – of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summarized, unclassified review of the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that were employed by the previous administration to extract information from captured terrorists. It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose – to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies – but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.


“They (The American people) must know when the values that define our nation are intentionally disregarded by our security policies, even those policies that are conducted in secret. They must be able to make informed judgments about whether those policies and the personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values; whether they served a greater good; or whether, as I believe, they stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good.


“I have long believed some of these practices amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture. Its use was shameful and unnecessary; and, contrary to assertions made by some of its defenders and as the Committee’s report makes clear, it produced little useful intelligence to help us track down the perpetrators of 9/11 or prevent new attacks and atrocities.


“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored


“What might come as a surprise, not just to our enemies, but to many Americans, is how little these practices did to aid our efforts to bring 9/11 culprits to justice and to find and prevent terrorist attacks today and tomorrow. That could be a real surprise, since it contradicts the many assurances provided by intelligence officials on the record and in private that enhanced interrogation techniques were indispensable in the war against terrorism. And I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure – torture’s ineffectiveness – because we gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer. Too much.


“The most important lead we got in the search for bin Laden came from using conventional interrogation methods. I think it is an insult to the many intelligence officers who have acquired good intelligence without hurting or degrading prisoners to assert we can’t win this war without such methods. Yes, we can and we will.


“But in the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.


“We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.


“Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.”  


To read the entire, unabridged, version of John McCain’s remarks, go here:http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2014/12/floor-statement-by-sen-mccain-on-senate-intelligence-committee-report-on-cia-interrogation-methods


Michael Settle is a retired investment adviser and writer. He lives in Paris.

Contact Michael Settle at michaelsettle@gmail.com

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Photo: www.rakerace.com