Joel Surnow, the right-wing activist who created the torture fetish show 24, building a neat little wall around his conscience:
In a more sober tone, [Surnow] said, “We’ve had all of these torture experts come by recently, and they say, ‘You don’t realize how many people are affected by this. Be careful.’ They say torture doesn’t work. But I don’t believe that. I don’t think it’s honest to say that if someone you love was being held, and you had five minutes to save them, you wouldn’t do it. Tell me, what would you do? If someone had one of my children, or my wife, I would hope I’d do it. There is nothing—nothing—I wouldn’t do.” He went on, “Young interrogators don’t need our show. What the human mind can imagine is so much greater than what we show on TV. No one needs us to tell them what to do. It’s not like somebody goes, ‘Oh, look what they’re doing, I’ll do that.’ Is it?”
Yes, it is like that.
By August, Dunlavey was clear that the rule book FM 34-52 was too restricting for someone like al-Qahtani, who was trained to resist interrogation. In his memo of October 11 2002 he set out the key facts as he saw them. The usefulness of the existing techniques had been exhausted. Some detainees had more information. He requested that aggressive new techniques be approved.
Dunlavey told me that at the end of September a group of the most senior Washington lawyers visited Guantánamo, including David Addington, the vice president’s lawyer, Gonzales and Haynes. “They brought ideas with them which had been given from sources in DC.” When the new techniques were more or less finalised, Dunlavey needed them to be approved by Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver, his staff judge advocate in Guantánamo. “We had talked and talked, brainstormed, then we drew up a list,” he said. The list was passed on to Diane Beaver.”[…] Beaver told me she arrived in Guantánamo in June 2002. In September that year there was a series of brainstorming meetings, some of which were led by Beaver, to gather possible new interrogation techniques. Ideas came from all over the place, she said. Discussion was wide-ranging. Beaver mentioned one source that I didn’t immediately follow up with her: “24 – Jack Bauer.”
It was only when I got home that I realised she was referring to the main character in Fox’s hugely popular TV series, 24. Bauer is a fictitious member of the Counter Terrorism Unit in LA who helped to prevent many terror attacks on the US; for him, torture and even killing are justifiable means to achieve the desired result. Just about every episode had a torture scene in which aggressive techniques of interrogations were used to obtain information.
Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo Bay, Beaver said, “he gave people lots of ideas.” She believed the series contributed to an environment in which those at Guantánamo were encouraged to see themselves as being on the frontline – and to go further than they otherwise might.
The new article provides a nice holistic picture of torture in America. The guys at the top – Dick Cheney, David Addington and his clan of neoconservative insiders – clearly wanted torture so badly that you wonder if they wrote those memos with their pants on. Jack Bauer was hardly needed with those guys*. However, the peope at the other end of US power don’t have such black souls. The privates and NCOs with more ordinary American values, guys who would soon be called on by their superior officers to do morally repulsive things, would need some extra motivation**. To get over their resistance to abusing helpless prisoners Jack Bauer, maybe the first mass media “good guy” who tortured on a regular basis, clearly made a major difference.
(*) Ok, fine, Antonin Scalia. Aren’t these guys supposed to base their thinking on, you know, non-fictional precedent?
(**) Some veterans of the American prison system at abu Ghraib clearly had it in them from the start, but they’re a small minority of the total.