Moreover, the US Catholic Bishops have also made their position quite clear. From Dr. Stephen Colecchi, Director, Office of International Justice and
Peace, Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
"Torture is about the rights of victims, but it is also about
who we are as a people. In a statement on
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, issued in preparation for
our recent national elections , the bishops reminded Catholics that
torture is 'intrinsically evil' and 'can never be justified.' There are
some things we must never do. We must never take the lives of innocent
people. We must never torture other human beings."
This is not a hedged statement. It is a categorical statement that what Thiessen is defending is, from a Catholic point of view, intrinsically evil and something that cannot be done under any circumstances. Pope John Paul II's Enclyclical, Veritatis Splendor, contains the following passage:
"... 'there exist acts which per se and in
themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong
by reason of their object'. ... 'whatever violates the integrity of the
human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and
attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity'
... 'all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect
human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than
those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due
to the Creator.'"
The notion of the integrity of the human person, of human dignity, is integral to the Catholic faith. We are all made in the image of God, imago Dei. The central and divine figure in our faith, Jesus of Nazareth, was brutally tortured. He was also robbed of dignity, forced to wear a mocking crown of thorns, sent to carry a crippling cross through the streets of Jerusalem, mocked while in agony, his body exposed naked and twisted in the stress position known as crucifixion - which was often done without nails by Romans so that the death was slow and agonizing in the way stress positions are designed to be. Ask John McCain. That the Catholic church in the Inquisition deployed these techniques reveals the madness and evil that can infect even those institutions purportedly created to oppose all such things.
Human dignity is reflected in the Geneva Conventions which bars outrages on human dignity against prisoners in captivity. Here is an iconic photograph of an individual robbed of all human dignity:
This technique was not invented by Lynndie England. It was also used at Gitmo and directly authorized by the man Thiessen worked for. Forced nudity is another way in which the human being is robbed of dignity:
This photograph is particularly striking since it so closely mimics in its form the way in which the Romans exposed Jesus on the cross. Forced nudity of this kind was also directly authorized by Thiessen's bosses. The argument that these techniques were somehow invented by low-level soldiers on the night-shift and had nothing whatsoever to do with the waiving of Geneva or the specific techniques authorized by the last president is simply, flatly, demonstrably untrue. We have the memos and the documents and the Red Cross Report and we have the unanimous conclusion of the Senate Armed Services Committee Report:
"The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the
result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques
such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress
positions, and using military dogs to intimidate them only appeared in
Iraq after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and GTMO.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 authorization
of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation
policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officers
conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were
appropriate treatment for detainees in IUS military custody."
What was done to human beings under the CIA program that Thiessen's boss, Cheney, has repeatedly and proudly insisted he supported and authorized and that Thiessen is now promoting in his new book, was far worse. Waterboarding, which Thiessen describes as the worst of the tortures, was not, in fact, the worst. Sleep deprivation - another medieval torture technique - can be far more grueling. Alex Massie has a recent post on the subject which I urge you to read. It contains this description from a torture victim subjected to sleep deprivation under the apartheiid regime:
"It is the equivalent of bear-baiting, and we
banned that centuries ago. I was kept without sleep for a week in all. I can remember the
details of the experience, although it took place 35 years ago. After
two nights without sleep, the hallucinations start, and after three
nights, people are having dreams while fairly awake, which is a form of
psychosis. By the week's end, people lose their orientation in place and
time - the people you're speaking to become people from your past; a
window might become a view of the sea seen in your younger days. To
deprive someone of sleep is to tamper with their equilibrium and their
It lasts for what seems like for ever. In one case under the direction of Thiessen's boss, Dick Cheney, a prisoner was subjected to 960 hours of it, with a few short breaks. Here is what Marc Thiessen's boss, Dick Cheney, supported, from the Bradbury memo:
“The primary method of sleep deprivation involves the
use of shackling to keep the detainee awake,” wrote Bybee’s eventual
replacement, Steven Bradbury, on March 10, 2005. “In this method, the
detainee is standing and is handcuffed, and the handcuffs are attached
by a length of chain to the ceiling.” The detainee’s feet are shackled
to a bolt in the floor, giving him a “two-to-three-foot diameter of
movement.” His hands “may be raised above the level of his head, but
only for a period of up to two hours.” His weight is “borne by his legs
and feet during sleep deprivation,” ensuring that he had to keep awake,
for if he “los[t] his balance” from exhaustion he would feel “the
restraining tension of the shackles.”
[...]According to the memo, the “maximum allowable duration for
sleep deprivation” is “180 hours,” or seven and a half days, “after
which the detainee must be permitted to sleep without interruption for
at least eight hours.”
A footnote to the memo indicated that there was an associated
technique of keeping a detainee awake through “horizontal sleep
deprivation.” In that technique, “the detainee’s hands are manacled
together and the arms placed in an outstretched position either
extended beyond the head or extended to either side of the body and
anchored to a far point on the floor in such a manner that the arms
cannot be bent or used for either balance or comfort.” Interrogators
would place similar restraints on the detainee’s legs. “The position is
sufficiently uncomfortable to detainees to deprive them of unbroken
sleep, while allowing their lower limbs to recover from the effects of
standing sleep deprivation,” Bradbury wrote.
This is not just torture; it is sadism and cruelty that any Catholic of any kind must find abhorrent. It is so close to crucifixion it chills the soul and shocks the conscience. Here is an FBI description of the treatment of a human being at Guantanamo Bay - an FBI eye-witness description - of what was done to a human being made in the image of God, under the direct authority of Thiessen's boss:
"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more.''
The agent also described military police manipulating the temperatures in detainees' cells. One was kept in air conditioning so frigid ``the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold.''
''When I asked the MPs what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment,'' the agent wrote.
On another occasion, the same agent saw an ''almost unconscious'' prisoner in a room where the temperature was ''probably well over 100 degrees'' -- and a pile of his hair on the floor.
The detainee ``had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night.''
Again this was at Gitmo, and cannot even be attached to defenseless scapegoats as at Abu Ghraib, because that prison was monitored directly by the government of the United States in a program the former vice-president "strongly supported" and which Thiessen is now defending on a Catholic cable channel.