Who are we? As Americans. As individuals. This thought gripped me when I first heard of the kidnapping and torture of people captured as suspected terrorists. The subsequent memo of legal justification written by John Yoo, then a White House lawyer, and the broad use of legal, convoluted, euphemistic language that called kidnapping “rendition” and torture “enhanced interrogation”.
The words we use are very important – they frame our thoughts. They conjure images of the meaning. The clever use of words has been a hallmark of leaders both good and horrible. As a retired professional in public relations I am well aware of the impact of carefully selected words.
As a family member of someone murdered in the World Trade Center on 9/11, I need to know who did it and why. And to see them properly punished for the atrocious act.
Who were these people and why was my government calling them “the worst of the worst”? Were they something other than human? That’s what it sounded like.
But torture? I thought everyone knew that by any name you want to give it, it doesn’t work…torture me and I know I’ll tell you anything you want to hear. And blatant euphemisms that mislead? Who thought that was a good idea? Americans? US? The good guys?
Turns out – it WAS Americans. From the highest reaches of the political administration to two inexperienced psychologists who dreamed up the torture program (and who made $80 million from it), it was Americans. Jessen and Mitchell were paid gobs of money to invent ways to intimidate, inflict pain (short of organ failure, John Yoo said), psychologically warp and worse…what would be your price for being responsible for inventing ways to maim another human being to the point of death?
With these thoughts driving me, I have followed events very closely since the aughts, reading, attending seminars, attending government informational meetings for 9/11 family members and travelling to Guantanamo three times to observe the military’s current snail-paced 9/11 trials.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Senator Diane Feinstein, ordered a probe of the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11. It was not easy. The story is filled with political intrigue and official and unofficial obfuscation. Dan Jones, a Senate staffer and former FBI agent worked for years under the most difficult conditions and finally produced a report almost 7,000 pages long. But you don’t have to read it. The docudrama “The Report” reliably conveys the intrigue and complexities of how the truth was finally outed by Jones and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
You want to know what I found out about Americans? Then go see the film. It is well worth your time…and your rapt attention. This is us. And thank goodness for the Diane Feinstein’s and Dan Jones’s – they are us too. The best of us.
Lost her nephew, Adam Arias