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Thune, Noem Miss Point: Torture Is Evil, Un-American

America tortured detainees. We tortured human beings.

The world is rightly outraged. We have it coming. We call ourselves the exceptional nation, and I'm fine with that if we can live up to that claim. We should be a beacon of democracy, justice, and humanity, not criminal monstrosity. Instead, in our surrender to the terror wrought on us by evil men, we committed evil that undermined our moral authority and did more durable damage to our national interest than the loss of any buildings or lives.

In response to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on our use of torture under the George W. Bush Administration, South Dakota's Congressional delegation splits predictably. Our Republican members ignore the real moral crime and try to paint those who expose our crime as the bad guys:

Republican Sen. John Thune said while some of the findings of the report are disturbing, the "conclusions are misleading and do not represent all the facts."

"With growing national security threats from our enemies around the globe, the release of this report on a program that ended eight years ago puts our military and intelligence operatives in jeopardy today," said Thune, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate. "This seems more like a politically motivated report, rather than an honest attempt to improve our intelligence-gathering practices" [Christopher Doering, "S.D. Delegation Divided on Torture Report," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.12.09].

Yes, yes, stay afraid. Wave the flag, support the troops, pay no attention to the torturers behind the curtain.

Rep. Kristi Noem expressed concern that the details of the report could allow U.S. enemies to "to twist our intentions" and use its findings to promote aggression against America. "Congress must continue to provide thorough oversight over our intelligence activities, but the manner in which this was done puts America in danger and does our country little to no good," she said [Doering, 2014.12.09].

Differing from these cowards, Senator Tim Johnson puts the focus back where it should be, saying we made mistakes and need to admit them:

Today’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation practices was the right thing to do. The American people deserve to know the truth – that the CIA tortured detainees during the Bush Administration using interrogation practices contrary to our American values. We are stronger as a nation when we admit our mistakes, learn from the past, and move forward. I strongly believe that the use of torture is intolerable and inexcusable. These practices failed to make our nation safer and must not happen again [Senator Tim Johnson, press release, 2014.12.09].

Senator John McCain, who bears the scars of torture, agrees with his Democratic colleague:

[The report] 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.

I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values [Senator John McCain, floor statement, United States Senate, 2014.12.09].

Senator McCain says America's torture failed to produce useful intelligence or forward our goals in fighting terrorism. But Senator McCain says efficacy is not the main point:

...[T]orture’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 [McCain, 2014.12.09].

Senator Thune and Rep. Noem should listen to Senator McCain. The torture report is not political hackery. It is a truthful admission of America's sins, and a necessary step in re-establishing our claim that we are better than the terrorists we fight.

We tortured human beings. We committed crimes against humanity. We will likely never prosecute those crimes. But we must admit those crimes and vow never to commit them again. We must vow to be Americans — not terrorists, not tyrants, but Americans.

Related Reading: Douglas Wiken wisely notes that the CIA's use of torture could encourage overly aggressive law enforcement practices here at home.


  1. Bill Fleming 2014.12.11

    Let's give Thune and Kristi a little credit here, Cory. At least from the quotes you've offered here, I don't see either of them defending the practice of torture or trying to say that what was done wasn't in fact torture. I take that as a good sign. There are quite a few in their company who are still defending, minimizing, and otherwise trying to justify the practice.

  2. Steve Sibson 2014.12.11

    "We should be a beacon of democracy, justice, and humanity, not criminal monstrosity."

    Your right Cory. Instead we should have filmed cutting off their heads and put it up on YouTube.

  3. Steve Sibson 2014.12.11

    "These practices failed to make our nation safer"

    So the evidence gathered to enable us to find bin Laden did not make our nation safer? I think there is room to debate that point.

    But I do agree that we should stop being the world's police force. Bring all our troops home, put them on the borders, and the illegal immigration problem also goes away. Our federal spending would not only go done on defense spending, but welfare spending would also drop.

  4. Bill Fleming 2014.12.11

    Sibby, the rationale that 'the ends justify the means' is the terrorists' ethic, not ours.

  5. Steve Sibson 2014.12.11

    go done , rather go down.

  6. Paul Seamans 2014.12.11

    Just when I'm thinking I don't have much respect for Senator McCain he up and does something like this.

  7. larry kurtz 2014.12.11

    Whose Anus Would Jesus Penetrate?

  8. Bajun Mavalwalla 2014.12.11

    I've been present during interrogations of some pretty bad actors. My team was instrumental in bagging and tagging these guys and the recordings we made put guys who were launching rockets at us away.

    Regardless of anything Thune or Noem say - torture is wrong.

    Let me make something clear: Forget the immorality of torture for a moment. Forget that it's against international laws and that the USA keeps going everywhere else condemning other countries for doing it (remember it was a top excuse Cheney pointed at Saddam for so we would invade Iraq). Forget ALL of that.

    Torture is bad intel, galvanizes our enemies against us and worst of all torture actually rallies people who simply don't like us to take up the cause to actually fight against us.

    Torture turns our enemies into a hyacinth. Torture someone and you create 100 more enemies... Maybe a thousand. This report does not put me, my son, or anyone else who worked in intelligence in danger. If anything the report draws a bright line not to be crossed again.

  9. oldguy 2014.12.11

    Paul I think you can respect somebody while not agreeing with them as , to me anyway, that is one of the problems in D.C.

  10. mike from iowa 2014.12.11

    Wingnut rationale is we'll go ahead and do it and Dems can clean up the mess we blame them for. Victory(electionwise) is ours.

  11. Bill Fleming 2014.12.11

    Bajun, excellent. First hand info from one who's been there. Thank you for both your reasoning and your service.

  12. jerry 2014.12.11

    Torture is simply revenge. It solves nothing regarding intel and only serves those who are so full of hate for themselves, they see nothing wrong with inflicting pain onto others. The guys that got it right were John McCain, a former prisoner of war and Tim Johnson, who sent his son to war. The ones who were in charge of this will probably be charged with war crimes as they should be. Maybe if the world would see the past administration doing the walk of shame at the Hague and to accept the findings of that court, would they then believe that we are indeed an exceptional nation. Until then, all is tail.

  13. Steve Sibson 2014.12.11

    I agree that torture is wrong, but I will not accept the argument on a partisan political bases. If you want to understand the source of the torture, study the Tavistock organization. This stuff happens regardless who is president. As I sad, America has been given the responsibility of being the world's police force by the globalists who run this world.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.11

    Bajun and McCain both offer important testimony. Practically and morally, torture is wrong. We offer and need no partisan basis for that argument, Steve.

  15. Loren 2014.12.11

    Thune and Noem are just too predictable. It is to the point I can tell you their response to any Democratic proposal, announcement, or initiative. Whatever it is, they are against it!

  16. David Newquist 2014.12.11

    Thune and Noem recite the South Dakota GOP scripture: don't reveal to the public what government officials do. Keep the public uninformed and disinformed and accuse those who inform the public of endangering the nation. Keeping the public safe from information wins elections and gives Rounds and Bollen sanctions for duping the public.

  17. Darrell Reifenrath 2014.12.11

    When John McCain was tortured he gave his torturers useful information. He told them Bart Starr was in charge of offensive operations and Ray Nitschke was defense.

  18. 96Tears 2014.12.11

    Thune and Noem are regurgitating their RNC talking points on this to stir the pot. Sadly, they are part of the same chorus as the worst torture deniers in the CIA and the GOP congressional leadership.

    Why can't this country get it straight that water boarding is torture. Minimizing torture by calling it "enhanced interrogation" is double speak worthy only of Albert Speer, Pol Pot, Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin and their ilk. As with Operation Phoenix in the Vietnam era, we find the CIA and the intelligence community and their puppets in D.C. trying to get away again with war crimes.

  19. Steve Sibson 2014.12.11

    "on our use of torture under the George W. Bush Administration"

    Cory, your analysis is partisan. Torture is a way of life. Both parties are responsible, because both parties work for the global elites. All Americans should come together and admit torture is wrong. Unfortunately partisan politics is preventing that from happening. There is deceptive propaganda coming out of both parties on this issue.

  20. larry kurtz 2014.12.11

    In Whose Anus Would Jesus Put Hummus?

  21. Lynn 2014.12.11


    When I read the list of what they were doing to these prisoners in regards to torture if they had done this to me they would turn me into one highly motivated enemy. If I survived the torture I'd be fired up!

    Besides providing bad intel we are creating and just fanning the flames of an endless state of war with creating our own problems as our foreign policy has done in the past that will come back to bite us.

  22. bearcreekbat 2014.12.11

    Torture is not wrong because the backlash might cause us, the torturers, pain or discomfort, make us more enemies, or encourage retaliation. Torture is wrong because of the pain and anguish inflicted on the victim, period.

  23. mike from iowa 2014.12.11

    and it was Ray Nitsche who said what doesn't outscore me,makes me winner.

  24. Donald Pay 2014.12.11

    From the Doering article: Republican Sen. John Thune said while some of the findings of the report are disturbing, the "conclusions are misleading and do not represent all the facts."

    Isn't that why we need prosecutions of the torturers and their superiors? Cheney said we got valuable information by torturing the prisoners. Well, put Cheney et al. on trial and they can provide "all the facts" and correct any "misleading" conclusions.

    Obama should also go on trial for refusing to prosecute. That amounts to aiding and abetting war crimes.

  25. Bill Fleming 2014.12.11

    BCB, the script of "A Few Good Men" comes to mind.

  26. Douglas Wiken 2014.12.11

    BCB, the supporters of the CIA and Army claim that that death was caused by Iraqi police or Army rather than actions of US soldiers. But, that happened as a result of the lies we were told by Cheney and Bush as reasons for attacking Iraq to begin with.

    The right-wing defenders of torture are claiming the senate report is an "outrage". The real outrage is not the report, but the actions of those who discredited the US by engaging in functionless torture.

  27. mike from iowa 2014.12.11

    Donald Pay,I'd gladly go along with putting Obie on trial for aiding and abetting war crimes if,and only if,Nixon,Raygun,both Shrubs,Cheney,Kissinger,Rumsfeld,and all neo-Cons are shipped to the Hague for International war crimes tribunals.

  28. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.11

    That an American president/vice president ordered torture, that other Americans committed the crime of torture, that Americans defend torture . . . It truly makes me feel ill.

    My friends came home from Vietnam, if they returned at all, broken physically and mentally by tiger cages, months and years of isolation, 'stress positions' that destroyed muscle, tendon and bone.

    To think that Americans have done these very monstrous cruelties to human beings makes my mind rebel.

  29. Bill Fleming 2014.12.11

    What happened in this horrifying torture fiasco can perhaps be best understood by studying this. Not sure what can be done about it, but knowing how it works may be a good start:

  30. jerry 2014.12.11

    Donald Pay, I read your comments and can tell you put much thought in them, this one about President Obama however, missed the mark completely.

  31. JeniW 2014.12.11

    I disagree Donald. The torturing was an act of revenge and knee-jerk vigilante for the mass murder on 9/11. The only thing that was accomplished was putting the U.S. at the same level as the terrorists.

    When people living in the U.S. are accused of, and questioned for acts of violence, are the same torture techniques used?

    I have questioned why were drugs not used? We know there are drugs that reduces inhibitions and get people to talk.

  32. bearcreekbat 2014.12.11

    Bill, Phillip Zumbardo ran similar experiments with college kids pretending to be prisoners and prison guards. The sad results might add another level of explanation of why young soldiers obeyed the orders to torture. An explanation of why the higher ups issued such orders is tougher to understand.

    Here is Dr. Zumbardo's post about the experiment:

  33. Bill Fleming 2014.12.11

    Two words BCB, Dick Cheney.

  34. bearcreekbat 2014.12.11

    larry, I was shocked by the anal rape admissions euphemistically (but factually and medically incorrectly) called "rectal rehydration and feeding."

    According to the article, "Rectal feeding is of limited application in actually keeping a person alive or administering nutrients, since the colon and rectum cannot absorb much besides salt, glucose and a few minerals and vitamins. The CIA administered rectal rehydration to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “without a determination of medical need” and justified “rectal fluid resuscitation” of Abu Zubaydah because he “partially refus[ed] liquids”. Al-Nashiri was given an enema after a brief hunger strike.

    Risks of rectal feeding and rehydration include damage to the rectum and colon, triggering bowels to empty, food rotting inside the recipient’s digestive tract, and an inflamed or prolapsed rectum from careless insertion of the feeding tube. . . . ."

    How anyone could argue this was not torture and anal rape is beyond my minuscule imagination.

  35. larry kurtz 2014.12.11

    Cheney, his entrails at Kandahar.

  36. mike from iowa 2014.12.11

    Just s'more good ole christian family values,wingnut style.

  37. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.11

    BCB, isn't the language used to disguise anal rape disgusting in itself? Even the language used to excuse torture is a perversion.

  38. Donald Pay 2014.12.11

    What I'm suggesting is that if prosecutorial discretion in minor issues like overstaying a visa is such an offense that Republicans go ape shit, then they should be really upset with Obama's prosecutorial discretion in issues such as anal rape and tortuous assault and murder conducted under Cheney's orders. Besides, we are under treaty, signed by Reagan, to prosecute torturers. Obama needs to do his job, and in this case that is to prosecute the torturers and those who gave the orders.

  39. jerry 2014.12.11

    The only way to prosecute these mutts will be at the Hague where it should be. They committed international crimes, so the world court must prosecute them for that. This bunch ranks up their with Pinochet and the rest of the hooligans that tortured their way to power in Chile. President Obama need not do a thing, this bunch has proven themselves guilty as charged. They await the Universal Jurisdiction to seal their fate if they leave American shores or if they are handed over by some miracle. In the meantime, the world has seen what we have born unto them for history to write volumes about, this is their legacy and our great shame.

  40. mike from iowa 2014.12.12

    I agree with Donald Pay,except that all wingnuts have to be prosecuted and executed first-including Nixon,Raygun,Ford,Al Haig and any others I might have forgotten about. Only then can we worry about Obie.

  41. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.12

    Donald saves himself from our local firing squad with the explanation that the prosecution of President Obama follows from the GOP logic of suing/impeaching/declaring tyrant the President for selective prosecution of laws. As I understand it, prosecution at the Hague is more likely than prosecution in a U.S. court, so we could ask the question of whether the international court would choose to include in its torture prosecution docket President Obama, who remains far more popular oversees than he is here.

  42. leslie 2014.12.13

    the "bush six" republican lawyers all, AEI products and law clerks to scalia ect, like atty Yoo, authors of the torture memos, were nearly prosecuted for war crimes

  43. leslie 2014.12.13

    thune "seems...politically motivated" to think "all the facts" are not contained in the 6,000,000 pages studied by the commission. the same party line that says only 3 were water boarded says anal nourishment is a "medical procedure" says that accountability for republican torture should not occur. party-line spinners, john and christie criticize how their party was criticized. the party of personal responsibility.

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