The New York Review of Books
April 30, 2009
The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means
By Mark Danner
When it comes to torture, it is not what we did but what we are doing. It is not what happened but what is happening and what will happen. In our politics, torture is not about whether or not our polity can 'let the past be past'--whether or not we can 'get beyond it and look forward.' Torture, for Dick Cheney and for President Bush and a significant portion of the American people, is more than a repugnant series of 'procedures' applied to a few hundred prisoners in American custody during the last half-dozen or so years--procedures that are described with chilling and patient detail, particularity in this authoritative report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Torture is more than the specific techniques--the forced nudity, sleep deprivation, long-term standing, and suffocation by water,' among others--that were applied to those fourteen 'high-value detainees' and likely many more at the 'black site' prisons secretly maintained by the CIA on three continents.
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