Bush’s Intellectual Torturers

Paris – The top-secret memoranda released by the Obama administration concerning torture practices in CIA prisons shed new light on a fundamental question: how is it that people acting in the name of the United States government could so easily accept the idea of torturing the detainees in their charge?

The newly published documents do not disclose the very facts of torture, which were already well known by whomever wanted to know them. But they do reveal a great deal of information about how the torture sessions unfolded and how the agents involved perceived them.

What is most striking is the discovery of niggling little rules, outlined in CIA manuals and co-opted by the government’s legal executives. One would have thought that torture was the result of blunders or unintentional excesses committed on the spur of the moment. On the contrary, these memos make clear that torture was a tactic formulated in minute detail.

In the Bush administration’s “guidelines,” torture can be divided into three categories, of varying levels of intensity: “baseline” (nudity, dietary manipulation, sleep deprivation); “corrective” (hitting); and “coercive” (water-dousing, box confinement, water-boarding).