John Kerry: America’s Torturers Undermined America’s Brand and Security


I occasionally write for the website and just noticed that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry is now doing so too.
In a great piece applauding President Obama’s early executive orders to move forward vigorously the closing of Guantanamo, Kerry outlines what the failure to respect human rights means for national security.
In his article, John Kerry writes:

Torture plays directly into a central tenet of al Qaeda’s recruiting pitch: that everyday Muslims across the world have something to fear from the United States of America.
From Morocco to Malaysia, people regularly hear stories of torture and suicide at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other overseas prisons. The result has been a major blow to our credibility worldwide, particularly where we need it most: in the Muslim world.
Once permitted, torture and lawlessness are not easily contained. Coercive interrogation techniques found their way from high-level terrorists at Guantanamo to low-level detainees at Abu Ghraib.
Years later, images of abuse there remain fixtures across the Arab and Muslim world. And as John McCain has argued, the use of techniques like waterboarding leaves its scars on a democratic society as well.
Torture elicits lies — not just from those experiencing it, but from those who seek to conceal it. After years of Orwellian denials and legalistic parsing, what a relief it was to hear our new attorney general-designee finally acknowledge what we know to be true: that yes, “waterboarding is torture.”
As we move forward, President Obama is wise to “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals” — but the American people should know that closing a prison conceived outside the rule of law will not be easy.
Reclaiming Guantanamo and its inhabitants into our legal system from what former Vice President Dick Cheney called “the dark side” will be an enormous challenge and a thicket of thorny legal and policy issues.
However, we are already seeing the international system reorganize itself around an America that is willing to be a moral leader.

No matter when Guantanamo finally closes, there is progress in the right direction with an end to secret prisons and extraordinary rendition as well as a comment to prohibit torture techniques.
But it will take a very long time for those aggrieved — and who had hope in the moral enlightenment of the United States — to fully trust that this black period is over.
In fact, I don’t fully trust the US government on this front either. We need to see practices and habits of action and performance fill in the foundation of rhetoric.
— Steve Clemons


9 comments on “John Kerry: America’s Torturers Undermined America’s Brand and Security

  1. Paul Norheim says:

    I misunderstood. Now you can imagine how depressed I became,
    thinking that Obama had asked him to stay (just like Bob Gates)…
    Thanks for correcting my mistake.


  2. Don Bacon says:

    Paul, you frightened me there for a moment. Abrams is not going into the administration, he’s going into a think tank, CFR.


  3. Paul Norheim says:

    If I were into conspiracy theories, I would have connected some
    1) Bill Kristol did not quit, they just moved him from New York
    Times to Washington Post.
    2) They close Guantanamo in Cuba, while expanding Bagram in
    Afghanistan “to hold 1,100 illegal enemy combatants” (see Don
    Bacon above).
    3) They make Obama win the election partly by promising to
    end the occupation of Iraq, while the fact is that they are just
    moving SOME of the troops from Iraq to the new surge in
    4) Abrams, who should not be allowed into ANY administration
    after the Iran Contras affair, is welcomed into the new
    administration (what about inviting Oliver North as well?).
    The truth is that you don´t have to be into conspiracies nor
    paranoid to connect the dots. They are plain facts, for everyone
    to see and connect.
    The only question is: who are “they”?
    The American voters?
    The Foreign Policy establishment?
    The fourth estate?
    The military-industrial complex?
    All of these facts, seen isolated, are outrageous. If you connect
    them, it looks as if America sees the Bush years as just a small
    and regrettable aberration from business as usual. The only
    thing required to calm down the public is some minor
    corrections and more lipstick on the pig.


  4. Don Bacon says:

    If John Kerry knew what an ass he makes of himself with such a statement (“moral leader”), and if he knew how much derision American Exceptionalism draws from most of the world, he would shut his 57-varieties self-righteous trap.


  5. Paul Norheim says:

    “However, we are already seeing the international system
    reorganize itself around an America that is willing to be a moral
    leader.” (John Kerry)
    Saying that Kerry`s statement was premature, is an


  6. Don Bacon says:

    SC: “an end to secret prisons”
    John Kerry: “The American people should know that closing a prison conceived outside the rule of law will not be easy” , referring to the US military prison in Cuba which holds a couple hundred inmates.
    But Gitmo is only the visible tip of the iceberg.
    While some are being released, 15,100 prisoners remain in Iraq, and in Afghanistan more than 600 detainees are held at the US Bagram prison – known by campaigners as “the other Guantanamo”. Not only are there no plans to close it, but it is in the process of being expanded to hold 1,100 illegal enemy combatants; prisoners who cannot see lawyers, have no trials and never see any evidence there may be against them. And there are other prisons in Afghanistan and probably elsewhere.
    The US military admits that Bagram holds a “small number of individuals” seized outside Afghanistan. The US may deny it, but probably this is where some Gitmo inmates will go.
    According to human rights lawyers the prison also holds scores of innocent people, many seized after tip-offs from feuding tribal rivals. The alleged offences are never tested in court.
    The prison has been accused of torturing detainees and two men were allegedly beaten to death there in 2002. The US Army does not let outsiders in to view conditions inside.
    While Mr Obama struggles to work out what to do with Guantanamo’s 245 remaining prisoners, critics claim Bagram and other detention centres around Afghanistan are still legal black holes.
    “If they close Guantanamo and they expand the one in Bagram, it’s the same – there will be no difference,” said Lal Gul, chairman of the Afghanistan Human Rights Organisation.
    “If Barack Obama wants to close Guantanamo he should also set out to close not just Bagram, but detention centres in Khost, Kandahar and Jalalabad.”
    The International Justice Network, representing the families of four prisoners, has been arguing that they should have the same legal rights to challenge their detention that were eventually given to Guantanamo inmates.
    “It’s being used not as a temporary battlefield detention centre, but as a legal black hole where you can bring people to evade public and political scrutiny,” said Tina Monshipour Foster, the organisation’s executive director.
    A big part of the bogus ‘war on terror’, besides the invasions and military occupations, is also the often arbitrary imprisonment under terrible conditions of people in the countries blessed by US military attention.
    Closing Gitmo sometime this year is merely a red herring, a distraction from the overall terrible situation of Americans acting badly in the world.


  7. Steve Clemons says:

    Hypatia — you are right. Thanks for the catch and your patience. Should be a bit smoother and obvious now. best, steve clemons


  8. Hypatia says:

    Please repair the first sentence. It does not scan as is.
    Protip: Read the 1st sentence of EVERY post ALOUD BEFORE hitting the submit button. (Actually you should read the entire post aloud but somehow bloggers seem unable/unwilling to do this.)


  9. Cee says:

    I don’t believe the recent horror story from SITE to scare people into keeping this torture chamber open.
    If I’m wrong I have to ask if we created a man out for revenge.
    According to the counterterrorism official, Ali al-Shiri traveled to Yemen after being released to Saudi Arabia
    Who is the official saying this?


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