On the day that the senate approved the torture bill I went to a fundraiser for an organization called the Center for Victims of Torture. It is their 20th year of service and in those 20 years their clients have been people from places where government-sanctioned torture is a fact of life, where dictators and war lords rule and no one has heard of, or abides by, the Geneva Conventions. In 2001, 94% of new clients came from Africa. Think Liberia, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone. Until the reign of George Bush, these were places that had nothing much in common with America.
The speaker was Dr. Steven H. Miles, a doc who's spent much of his life working on ethics, human rights and international health care, including many stints in refugee camps from Cambodia to Sudan, and most recently, doing tsunami relief in Indonesia. He has a new book out called Oath Betrayed -- Torture, Medical Complicity and the War on Terror. He wrote it after seeing the photos of Abu Ghraib and wondering what the military medical personnel were doing when that -- and other -- abuses were taking place.
The answer he uncovered is stomach-churning. "Not only were doctors, nurses and medics silent while prisoners were abused; physicians and psychologists actually provided information that helped determine how much and what kind of mistreatment could be delivered to the detainees during interrogation."
I've not yet read the book, but his verbal description of the torture that the medical corp refused to prevent, and in some cases abetted, had my head swimming. How could we be sitting in a comfortable living room in the year 2006 passively hearing about the depraved acts that are being carried out in our name and knowing that our elected representatives just tossed what little was left of our moral credibility out the window?
Other than voting these sado-miscreants out of office, what can we do? I never dreamed I'd find myself identifying with the "good" Germans I once rebuked.
Into the welter of books about all that's wrong with our delusional incursion into Iraq, add one more. And ask yourself how it ever got to be this crazy.