Sunday, July 19, 2009

Meanwhile, in Washington

The CIA interrogators who waterboarded Abu Zubaida have been engaged in covering their behinds, by passing blame down, to a small group of contractors who pushed for torture, and up, to headquarters, which, they say, hounded them to get tough and accused them of being spineless when they questioned the wisdom of torturing Zubaida:
"Headquarters was sending daily harangues, cables, e-mails insisting that waterboarding continue for 30 days because another attack was believed to be imminent," the former official said. "Headquarters said it would be on the team's back if an attack happened. They said to the interrogation team, 'You've lost your spine.' "
Dick Cheney is evil, but at least he hasn't tried to avoid responsibility for what he did. There is something disgusting about this constant buck-passing, in which nobody claims responsibility for decisions that just sort of happened. This is the "banality of evil" in action.


David said...

Bah! Taking responsibility in this case would mean essentially falling on your sword to protect the organization. The more buck-passing, the more information the public gets. I would rather understand the precise role of each component in the operation, and the rhetoric they used ("you've lost your spine!") that watch a morality play.

As for Cheney, he's on record saying he thinks torture is a good idea, but I can't recall him saying anything like, "Yes, I ordered Langley to torture" or anything like that. He's basically become a talking head.


John said...

The danger of buck passing is that in an organization as big as the CIA, blame can get passed around and back and forth for so long that in the end nobody is held accountable, and all the people involved stay in their jobs, ready to do the same thing again the next time some President wants them to break the law. I think that in cases like this it is necessary to single out someone for punishment, in order to encourage the others to say no next time.

David said...

Yes, but punishment is what the rest of the world does once an incident has been elucidated. "Taking responsibility" is what perpetrators do, often when they are either falling on their sword to protect the organization, or when they are trying to avoid punishment. If the rest of the world lets buck-passing end in no punishment, that's our fault.

John said...

I suppose that what bothers me in the broadest sense about recent events is how easily Bush, Cheney & Company were able to hijack the whole government for their crazy agenda. I think they were able to do this because the whole, vast bureaucratic system is designed to avoid making controversial decisions and to fudge findings and push responsibility around. So a very small group of people (twenty?) who were willing to insist on illegal, self-destructive acts got everyone else to go along. The attitude I see in these CIA apologists -- it wasn't us, it was "headquarters", we tried to moderate what happened, etc. -- is actually the habit that made the Bush takeover possible. Nobody said "no", because nobody felt responsible for what happened.