As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Respect Is Earned

The scribblers from the White House Press Corps have dropped their teacups and opened windows for air after the vicious, uncouth attack on their dear friend Dick Cheney by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Rick Klein, chief towel-washer at ABC's The Note (they still print that?), exclaimed "Wow—we’re talking about the former vice president here." NBC's First Read (Facebook to The Note's MySpace) tut-tutted about the return of "petty political squabbling." And Chip Reid, bravely bold Chip Reid, after choking back tears and bolstered by the support of his fellow Villagers, stood up to that horrible bully and gave him a piece of his mind (hopefully he has some left):

Reid: Can I ask you, when you referred to the former Vice President, that was a really hard-hitting, kind of sarcastic response you had. This is a former Vice President of the United States. Is that the attitude—is that the sanctioned tone toward the former Vice President of the United States from this White House now?

The Village is rising in solidarity to defend and protect that most fragile of egos, Dick Cheney. Because they have respect for the institutions and the office, you see.

Slightly less remarked-upon than the honor of St. Dick is yet another verdict on the torture that he directed and authorized while sitting in that office. I know in the Village you can earn respect without being respectable, but this fake outrage over a one-line insult when prisoners around the world were beaten, strapped naked to cots, suffocated by water, dragged around by collars and confined into a small box, to just name a few techniques, at the behest of THE SAME GUY THE PRESS IS DEFENDING, is a little tough to take.

With the help of the American trauma surgeon, Abu Zubaydah's captors nursed him back to health. He was moved at least twice, first, reportedly, to Thailand; then, he believes, to Afghanistan, probably Bagram. In a safe house in Thailand the interrogation began:

I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. The room measured approximately [13 feet by 13 feet]. The room had three solid walls, with the fourth wall consisting of metal bars separating it from a larger room. I am not sure how long I remained in the bed. After some time, I think it was several days, but can't remember exactly, I was transferred to a chair where I was kept, shackled by [the] hands and feet for what I think was the next 2 to 3 weeks. During this time I developed blisters on the underside of my legs due to the constant sitting. I was only allowed to get up from the chair to go [to] the toilet, which consisted of a bucket. Water for cleaning myself was provided in a plastic bottle.

I was given no solid food during the first two or three weeks, while sitting on the chair. I was only given Ensure [a nutrient supplement] and water to drink. At first the Ensure made me vomit, but this became less with time.

The cell and room were air-conditioned and were very cold. Very loud, shouting type music was constantly playing. It kept repeating about every fifteen minutes twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes the music stopped and was replaced by a loud hissing or crackling noise.

The guards were American, but wore masks to conceal their faces. My interrogators did not wear masks.

During this first two to three week period I was questioned for about one to two hours each day. American interrogators would come to the room and speak to me through the bars of the cell. During the questioning the music was switched off, but was then put back on again afterwards. I could not sleep at all for the first two to three weeks. If I started to fall asleep one of the guards would come and spray water in my face [...]

Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow. Measuring perhaps in area [3 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet high]. The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 1/2 feet] in height. I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room. I was also repeatedly slapped in the face....

I was then put into the tall black box for what I think was about one and a half to two hours. The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.

Dick Cheney attended the principals' meeting where these techniques were approved. And given the timeline of events, and Abu Zubaydah's testimony, we can divine that he was a guinea pig, an experiment, a test subject for torture.

"I was told during this period that I was one of the first to receive these interrogation techniques, so no rules applied. It felt like they were experimenting and trying out techniques to be used later on other people."

This article makes clear, then, that about two and a half months after he first woke up in US custody--so probably shortly after mid-June 2002--the US was experimenting on Abu Zubaydah, testing out various forms of torture to see which worked best and left the fewest marks.

Understand what this means: the torturers were conducting their experiments on Abu Zubaydah before John Yoo wrote up an OLC memo authorizing torture (hell--Yoo may have excluded those methods they had decided were ineffective and that my be why they told Abu Zubaydah there were no rules). The torturers were conducting their experiments with the intimate involvement of those back at the White House getting briefed and approving of each technique. And the torturers were being videotaped doing so.

You can put aside, for only this moment, the fact that Cheney helped to break the global economy and has no explanation for it. Or Katrina or Iraq or Valerie Plame or the energy task force or the allegations of an executive assassination ring that reported only to him. This is a man who presided over the experimentation of human beings.

That is who the Village has decided is worthy of respect.

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