A Striking Blow to the Conscience
Getting Away With Torture’ Tracks History of Secret Operations
In a revealing new book, a former captain in U.S. Army intelligence chronicles the dishonest and unjust development of U.S. torture policy, detailing secret operations and masked decisions.
In his third book, “Getting Away With Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law,— Christopher Pyle reveals what most Americans don’t know about the government processes that have led to such establishments at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. A collection of statistics, legal proceedings, personal accounts and photographs, the book delivers a striking blow to the conscience, revealing information that will make both Democrats and Republicans cringe.
Pyle uses all his evidence to make a fierce argument against the U.S. torture policy and those who have escorted it through the legislative, executive and judicial chains of command. He traces the web of deception through the Supreme Court, CIA and Army, all the way to former President George W. Bush’s personal legal counsel. Pyle claims throughout the book that members of numerous organizations had a hand in finding their way around the law and creating “legal black holes.—
“To bad people, the law is nothing more than what they cannot get away with,— he writes.
This sharp rhetoric continues as Pyle points out the trend of secret government moves and mistreatment of prisoners through history as well, going so far back as the Indian wars of the 1600s to as recently as the 1970s when the CIA was secretly authorized to kill and capture members of al-Qaida wherever and whenever it wanted to.
“It would be reassuring to view the abuse of suspected terrorists since 9/11 as aberrations attributable to poor training, staffing, or discipline or to the excessive zeal of one administration,— he writes. “But torture did not begin with the Bush administration; it had been part of the CIA’s repertoire for decades.—
In an interview, Pyle described the CIA as “one of the greatest failures of all time,— noting that “they’re great at selling themselves on Capitol Hill, [and] they make people think they’re superhuman, but they’re not.—
Pyle’s strength throughout the book is his shock value. Through his various stories and eyewitness accounts, not to mention gruesome photographs, Pyle draws more than a few horrified reactions. “They included wrapping a prisoner’s head in duct tape for chanting the Koran, dressing a soldier as a Catholic priest and pretending to baptize’ a Muslim prisoner, and draping an Israeli flag over an Arab prisoner,— Pyle writes, describing techniques witnessed by members of the FBI while visiting the prison at Guantánamo Bay. “FBI agents reported seeing a female soldier handle a prisoner’s genitals and wipe what she said was menstrual blood in his face, acts that would be especially offensive to Muslims.—
The book falls into line with Pyle’s history of revealing information for the sole purpose of justice and transparency. In 1970, while teaching at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, Pyle learned of and exposed the Army’s domestic spying practices. After teaching these young soldiers, Pyle says he is especially appalled at the military’s policies on torture.
“How can I tell students that this country is worth giving your life for if necessary if this country just behaves like any other dictatorship?— he says. Pyle worries about the ramifications of telling military personnel that they are free from the rules of war and law, warning that “We train the troops to be savage; we turn 18-year-olds into killers.—
As a self-declared “Madisonian conservative,— Pyle describes the Bush administration as “the worst administration in American history.—
“People say this is an issue of the left vs. the right. That’s not true,— he says. “There are people on all parts of the political spectrum coming out against this.—
Although most of the book focuses on the issue of torture, Pyle asserts that “it’s not a book only about torture; it’s about presidents who believe they are above the law.— He hopes the book will help inform those who want to get involved in the issue and be active it its resolution and exposure. This may be a bit difficult, as the political and legal jargon is sometimes a little heavy and hard to follow, but certainly overall it is effective.
Pyle has put together a compelling collection of facts and stories with the detail one would expect from a former military intelligence officer and legal expert.