An Hour’s Worth of Sociopaths

Tried to go to sleep, but could not, so I thought I would remark on the amazing 60 Minutes interview tonight with Jose Rodriguez (video here and here). The whole thing was horrendous. Rather than rotting in jail for selling our nation’s soul to the devil, this war criminal was on CBS selling his book and continuing to spew his bile. A sample:

Which is why Jose Rodriguez says that when he ran the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, he came up with the idea of employing harsh interrogation techniques. And10 years later, he feels he still has to justify their use.

Lesley Stahl: You had no qualms? We used to consider some of them war crimes.

Jose Rodriguez: We made some al Qaeda terrorists with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days. But we did the right thing for the right reason. And the right reason was to protect the homeland and to protect American lives. So yes, I had no qualms.

***

ose Rodriguez: The detainee was strapped to an inclined board with his feet up so that no water would go–

Lesley Stahl: So his head was back.

Jose Rodriguez: So his head was back. And a cloth was placed over the mouth and nose. And water was applied to it.

Lesley Stahl: Oh he couldn’t breathe through his nose.

Jose Rodriguez: So when he was saturated, then the air flow would be stopped.

Lesley Stahl: And he’d have the sensation of drowning.

Jose Rodriguez: And he would have the sensation.

Lesley Stahl: And was he naked?

Jose Rodriguez: In many cases, nudity was used extensively. And it worked well.

Lesley Stahl: Why is nudity effective?

Jose Rodriguez: It is effective because a lot of people feel very vulnerable when they’re nude. And also because of the culture. Nudity, it is not something that is common.

***

Lesley Stahl: Oh, what’s the insult slap?

Jose Rodriguez: It’s just slapping somebody with an open hand so that you don’t hurt ’em.

Lesley Stahl: By “hurt,” you mean you don’t break his jaw?

Jose Rodriguez: We don’t break his jaw. And the objective is not to inflict pain. The objective is to let him know there’s a new sheriff in town, and he better pay attention.

***

Lesley Stahl: There was no reason to think that it had been effective or that it was safe. This is your inspector general.

Jose Rodriguez: Well our own inspector general in many cases did very sloppy work. That report is flawed in many different ways.

Lesley Stahl: Why would they make it up?

Jose Rodriguez: I don’t know if it’s made up. I don’t know if they were advocates. You know, the inspector general himself, he was opposed to this. I mean, but this was the policy. So he was wrong.

But many of the tips from detainees reportedly led to blind alleys and expensive wild goose chases. Jose Rodriguez maintains the information from KSM and the other detainees enabled the CIA to disrupt at least 10 large scale terrorist plots.

Lesley Stahl: Would the plots have been stopped without the harsh interrogation techniques? In other words, could it have happened without waterboarding?

Jose Rodriguez: I can’t answer that question. Perhaps. But the issue here was timing. We needed information and we needed it right away to protect the homeland.

Lesley Stahl: You told us that the whole rationale, justification for the whole interrogation program was to stop an imminent attack. The inspector general says it didn’t stop any imminent attack.

Jose Rodriguez: I submit to you that we don’t know. We don’t know if, for example, al Qaeda would have been able to continue on with their anthrax program or nuclear program or the second wave of attacks or the sleeper agents that they had inside the United States that were working with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to take down the Brooklyn Bridge, for example. So, it’s easy, years later, to say, “Well, you know, no ticking time bomb– nothing was stopped.”

In short, we basically know that becoming a third world torture regime didn’t help us at all. And here is our regime’s chief torturer, not hiding in jail and begging for mercy from the court, but proudly bragging that he basically just tortured people for shits and giggles. That, in and of itself, should make you sick. But what really struck me was how similar this sociopath’s demeanor was to Michael Oren, who was also on 60 Minutes just last week. There, he was seen lying about the role Israeli policies have had on the complete destruction of the Christian community in Israel:

Michael Oren, who used to be Israel’s director of Interreligious Affairs, is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Michael Oren: We have to protect our country. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do in order to survive.

For Palestinian Christians, the survival of their culture is in danger. In towns like Bethlehem, which used to be distinctively Christian, Muslims now are a clear and growing majority. The veil is replacing the cross. But inside Israel, in Christian towns like Nazareth, Arabs are Israeli citizens and, according to Ambassador Oren, they’re thriving. The reason Christians are leaving the West Bank, he says, is Islamic extremism.

Michael Oren: I think that the major problem in the West Bank as in elsewhere in the Middle East is that the Christian communities are living under duress.

Bob Simon: And this duress is coming from Muslims, not from the Israel occupation?

Ambassador Michael Oren: I believe that the major duress is coming from that.

[Zahi Khouri: Great selling point. Easy to sell to the American public.]

Zahi Khouri is a Palestinian businessman. He owns the West Bank Coca-Cola franchise.

Zahi Khouri: I’ll tell you I don’t know of anybody and I probably have 12,000 customers here. I’ve never heard that someone is leaving because of Islamic persecution.

You really have to watch both videos to really get the full feel of how these two seemingly disparate issues are so much alike. Oren later actually called CBS news to have the report quashed, because he found it unfair- even though he didn’t even know what the report would be. The causes may be different, but the sincerity and creepy devotion to “duty,” however malevolent, is present.

But the demeanor of these two is what I find horrifying. Both Rodriguez and Oren are so convinced what they are doing is right, that no amount of evil behavior is invalidated, because their cause is so just. We’re just guided and led by zealots, everywhere. Rodriguez champions a covert torture regime for the benefit of all, while Oren champions apartheid for the good of the few.

We’re being ruled by mild-mannered, soft-spoken sadists and sociopaths.

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54 replies
  1. 1
    jl says:

    It would be interesting to put up the Jose Rodriguez and Ali Soufan interviews side by side, or one after the other.

    See who has the better story.

    Ali Soufan
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Soufan

  2. 2
    mclaren says:

    In short, we basically know that becoming a third world torture regime didn’t help us at all.

    Define “us.”

    Torture 1,000 and you can control a million. Torture helped the top 1% maintain a climate of fear. The OCCUPY protesters now understand that this can (and will) be done to them if they step out of line.

    That’s the whole point of torture. It’s not aimed at terrorists, it’s aimed at the American people. It’s like the violent wife-beater who clubs his dog to death with a tire iron in front of her in the name of “disciplining” the animal. “If I’ll do this to my dog, whom I love,” the message goes, “what do you think I’ll do to you?

  3. 3
    sagesource says:

    Nice of him to put the rope around his neck himself. Even though it might take years of hard work before the trap is sprung. I trust he can look forward to an old age like Pinochet’s, uncomfortable and humiliating. Maybe we can move just a little faster this time, so that he can’t defend himself by pleading he’s gone gaga, the way Pinochet did?

  4. 4
    Comrade Mary says:

    I hardly ever watch live tv any more. Maybe it’s better for my blood pressure.

    “We needed information and we needed it right away to protect the homeland.”

    The homeland. Jesus.

  5. 5
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    That guy should be locked up. His crap reads like the self-justification of a serial killer.

    ETA: They used “Homeland Security” because they knew that “Fatherland” would remind people of the past.

  6. 6
    dollared says:

    JC, thanks for this. Might makes right….except that it has never worked.

  7. 7
    d0n camillo says:

    @sagesource: No kidding. This guy seems to think it’s still September 12, 2001. Let’s hope he loves America as much as he says he does, because he’s in for a very unpleasant surprise if he leaves the US for any reason.

  8. 8
    janinsanfran says:

    They torture because they can. And we let them.

  9. 9
    Valdivia says:

    I highly recommend a PBS documentary called The Judge and The General, about Chile and Pinochet. There is an interview of one of the torturers. Watch it and compare to today’s interview. That is all.

  10. 10
    barath says:

    I recently (and finally) understood the lyrics to a song by Canadian band Propagandhi on their album Potemkin City Limits, and its prescription for folks like Oren and Rodriguez is among the best I’ve read (the Donald here is Rumsfeld):

    Donald wept through the proceedings. His tears soaked through the canvas that cloaked his twisted face and they stained his orange jumpsuit where with such rare distinction he once displayed the evidence of his outstanding contributions to the maintenance of a kingdom come. But those days are gone. He’s nothing more than a number on a docket thick with shareholders, engineers, PR firms, politicians: war-profiteers. How the fuck did I end up here? This just isn’t fair. Ain’t no place for a millionaire. He searches for the words to stop this table in mid-turn, like “we are but old men” and “we only did what we were told,” but the laughter from the gallery drowns out these vestiges of a profession’s oldest defense…
    __
    …so I think we should observe a sentence that will serve to satisfy both a sense of function and poetry: so you will spend the rest of your days drenched in sweat, with your face drawn in a rictus of terror as you remove another buried land mine fuse. Meanwhile, 100 yards back behind the sandbags, a legless foreman pulls the trigger on a red megaphone. Squelching feedback. Drunken laughter. Broken English. His dead daughter’s picture. Time and tide, no one can anticipate the inevitable waves of change.

  11. 11
    Elizabelle says:

    One of the commenters on CBS website recommended this book, and it looks good.

    None of Us were Like this Before

    About the effects of torture on the soldiers who become torturers.

  12. 12
    RILnyc says:

    The first person I thought of when I read the phrase “mild-mannered, soft-spoken sadists and sociopaths” was Chief Justice John Roberts.

  13. 13
    srv says:

    We must look forward and not to the past.

  14. 14
    Ruckus says:

    Someone has to go there. In the lifetime of many still alive there have been many for whom torture is accepted, even revered. But like so much of the thinking of the “ruling class” it is short term thinking. The only things it accomplishes is to make the victim feel pain and fear and to make the torturer feel in control. Only the first part of this ends up true over the long haul. Because in every case, eventually, the powerful side falls, taking many, many lives along the way. It could be called hubris but that’s not a strong enough concept. It could be called sociopathic behavior but that doesn’t explain the irrational fear that causes the might makes right folks to go there. There is something else, it’s primal, it’s irresponsible, it’s irrational, it’s inhumane. And yet it repeats itself over and over. Maybe those of us who feel that these assholes are, well assholes, maybe we are the outliers. What if they are normal and we are not? That would sure explain a lot of history. Or maybe we are on the cutting edge of humanity getting better and this is just one of the low points.

  15. 15
    Brachiator says:

    In short, we basically know that becoming a third world torture regime didn’t help us at all.

    Torture has long been perfected and used by advanced nations. The French used torture in Algeria. The US used waterboarding during the Philippines War.

    The US has taught torture to “third world torture regimes,” and has shipped people to other countries to be tortured.

    This even though we had been warned against this from the earliest days of the republic, by no less a founder as George Washington.

    No one should ever try to invoke a distinction between refined nations and primitive, brutal regimes when it comes to torture.

    The distinction surely doesn’t matter to those on the receiving end.

  16. 16
    TG Chicago says:

    While I completely agree that Rodriguez is a sociopath, I came away with a different overall impression.

    He’s a monster, but also a typical bureaucrat who focuses on shifting accountability above all else. CYA > CIA. He talked about how people would put the blame on them if there was another attack. And he talked about how he wanted to make sure other people signed off on all the torture techniques before they were used. He even tried to get others to sign off on destroying the videotapes of the torture, eventually having to settle for his own legal counsel’s okay.

    It’s abhorrent that his first duty was to ensure that he couldn’t be blamed for anything, but it also has to be expected in this sort of bureacracy.

    So really, while he is an awful human being, I’d only want him to be legally charged with destroying the videotapes. In the system we have created, I’m not sure he’s culpable for much else.

    The worst crimes should be pinned on Yoo and Bybee and presumably Cheney, et al. They’re the ones who — operating under a similar CYA > USA framework — were pressured into signing off on the torture techniques. They knew that if there was another attack, the CIA would take heat. And then the CIA would blame the Justice Dept for “tying their hands” in order to shift the responsibility. Justice wanted it to be on the CIA’s head, so they gave them carte blanche.

    That’s where the worst breakdown of the system occurred. It was Yoo and Bybee’s job to say “No. This is not legal.” Would they have potentially set themselves up for being blamed for another terrorist attack? Yup. But that is when (to use Rodriguez’s words) someone needed to “put on their big boy pants”.

    Rodriguez, the sociopath, used that phrase to say that people needed to grow up, stop worrying, and learn to love torture. But resorting to torture is what every two-bit thug and dictator has done throughout human history. It’s not grown-up; quite the opposite.

    But as grotesque a human being as Rodriguez is, I believe the worst failings came through the Justice Department.

  17. 17
    srv says:

    Oh, and an hours worth? We’ll be living with this for generations.

    Who runs domestic and economic policy for Heritage? That would be David Addington. Quiet, competent, and sociopath.

  18. 18
    patrick II says:

    Colin Powell:

    “Al Qaeda continues to have a deep interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction… I can trace the story of a sernior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to al Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained and he has told his story.”

    Andrew Sullivan: (yes, I know, but he got this one right)

    The man who spoke those words was Colin Powell at the UN. The “operative”, we now know, was Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libbi. He was waterboarded and given Bush-approved hypothermia treatment, i.e. frozen till he could take it no longer. It was only then that he told of al Qaeda’s links with Saddam’s WMDs. Guess what? Libbi subsequently retracted his confession.

    In addition to the sociopathology John points to of the Bush administration, we were led into war by false confessions. A war causing thousands of dead Americans and hundreds of thousands dead Iraqis was fought over the gibberish of a man just trying to make the pain stop.

    I don’t really believe in hell, but there are times I regret I don’t.

  19. 19
    Chris T. says:

    Both Rodriguez and Oren are so convinced what they are doing is right, that no amount of evil behavior is invalidated, because their cause is so just.

    That’s very often how it works, and is why we’re supposed to have “checks and balances”. But for those to work, Congress-members need to do their jobs, not sit around passing “message bills” and then go home to campaign (or, as happened under W, pass the buck to the Executive).

  20. 20
    SRW1 says:

    Because of its potential to hit so close to home, Hannah Arendt’s conclusion on the banality of evil is hard to accept, isn’t it.

  21. 21
    Narcissus says:

    How many people would need to be arrested, to seriously address the torture issue? Not just Addington, Yoo, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, but people like this jagoff and dozens of other bureaucrats and military intelligence twits.

  22. 22
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    We’re being ruled by mild-mannered, soft-spoken sadists and sociopaths.

    Reinhard Heydrich was a cultured, charming man, according to most contemporary accounts by European diplomats.

    If that name does not ring a bell, he was the head of the Gestapo.

    Both Rodriguez and Oren are so convinced what they are doing is right, that no amount of evil behavior is invalidated, because their cause is so just. We’re just guided and led by zealots, everywhere.

    Do you know who else thought their cause was so just, so righteous, that any means available could be used to further it?

    Oren in particular should pay attention to this.

  23. 23
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Brachiator:

    No one should ever try to invoke a distinction between refined nations and primitive, brutal regimes when it comes to torture.
    __
    The distinction surely doesn’t matter to those on the receiving end.

    This reminds me of Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s ridiculous distinction without any practical difference between “authoritarian” governments (like the Argentine military junta, who she actually advocated supporting in the Falklands war) and “totalitarian” governments like the Soviet Union.

  24. 24

    There is no country so exceptional to redeem torture done in her name.

  25. 25
    Skerry says:

    President Obama in April 2009 “I’m a strong believer that it’s important to look forward and not backward, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there.”

  26. 26
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    The interrogation techniques they used are not unusual nor inhumane. In fact, they sound perfectly reasonable because they were used to keep the homeland and her citizens safe.

    /Gestapo Officer

    If there’s such a thing as karma, this fucker has a dump truck load of bad coming his way.

  27. 27
    Schlemizel says:

    @Narcissus:
    Ah, but guys like this have a defense – you heard him last night:
    “Ve vas only fallowing orders”

    It worked so well at Nuremberg.

  28. 28

    It’s not just the CIA; it’s every branch and stick and twig of government.

    Our drugs are approved by lackeys of the corporations. Our medical care is dispensed in line with insurance profits. Our food is allowed to kill lots of people before anything is done about it.

    Every elements of civilization we have painstakingly constructed has been twisted and corrupted by the Right Wing. They don’t have to build Camps. They have turned the whole country into one.

  29. 29
    Rafer Janders says:

    Jose Rodriguez: So when he was saturated, then the air flow would be stopped.
    Lesley Stahl: And he’d have the sensation of drowning.

    You know why you have “the sensation” of drowning? Because YOU ARE DROWNING. You can’t breathe. If your air flow is choked by water, that’s drowning. There’s no such thing as “a sensation of drowning” that’s distinguishable from drowning.

    It’s like saying “I put my hands on his throat and started squeezing his layrnx until he had the sensation of choking” or “I applied a lighter to his testicles until he had the sensation of burning.”

  30. 30
    Steve says:

    Wait, the Christian community in Israel has been completely destroyed? Hold up a second.

  31. 31
    ellennelle says:

    Jose Rodriguez: I don’t know if it’s made up. I don’t know if they were advocates. You know, the inspector general himself, he was opposed to this. I mean, but this was the policy. So he was wrong.

    hm, where have we heard this before?

    if the president does it, it’s not illegal.

    progress.

  32. 32
    Narcissus says:

    @Steve: Palestinian Christians. Not the real kind.

  33. 33
    John of Indiana says:

    Very little criticism of Oren here. Afraid of being called Anti-Semites for criticizing Israeli policy?

  34. 34
    Lee Hartmann says:

    My favorite Oren moment was when he was on Colbert, right after the Helen Thomas dustup, and watching Oren’s face when Colbert said something like “Helen Thomas is wrong! We should send the Palestinians back to where they belong!”

    Note also Olmert’s speech against Netanyahu yesterday, where he was booed for telling the truth about the current Israeli government.

  35. 35
    gnomedad says:

    Lesley Stahl: You told us that the whole rationale, justification for the whole interrogation program was to stop an imminent attack. The inspector general says it didn’t stop any imminent attack.
    __
    Jose Rodriguez: I submit to you that we don’t know. We don’t know if, for example, al Qaeda would have been able to continue on with their anthrax program or nuclear program or the second wave of attacks or the sleeper agents that they had inside the United States that were working with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to take down the Brooklyn Bridge, for example. So, it’s easy, years later, to say, “Well, you know, no ticking time bomb—nothing was stopped.”

    IOW, the more we torture, the greater the chance we will, just maybe, stop some attack or other. Who knows?

  36. 36
    4tehlulz says:

    @John of Indiana: No one’s stopping you.

  37. 37
    debbie says:

    I saw both interviews. Sickening. Rodriguez was no better than Condi’s “Don’t you think I’d have done something if someone had specifically told me someone would slam a plane into a building?” And Oren, as always, showed that Israel and AIPAC are no better than rabid dogs: “I have no idea what you’re going to say, but I’m already against it.” I was glad to hear Olmert come out against a proactive attack on Iran.

    Both interviews point out the lunacy of what a Romney administration would mean — the same lunacy, all over again.

  38. 38
    Pancake says:

    A really hilarious piece of drivel.

  39. 39
    Paul in KY says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: He was also the head of the RHSA, which was even evilier than the Gestapo. Thank God we killed him, as he was more competant than Hitler & Himmler.

  40. 40
    Paul in KY says:

    @Rafer Janders: Excellent points, Rafer. If they hadn’t stopped, he would have experienced actual drowning to its conclusion.

  41. 41
    4tehlulz says:

    @Paul in KY: On the other hand, Lidice, so yeah.

  42. 42
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Paul in KY:

    Actually, Heydrich was assassinated by Czech and Slovak soldiers (with some Brit training and logistical assistance) in Prague in 1942.

    In reprisal, the Nazis quite literally wiped the village of Lidice from the map.

  43. 43
    Denali says:

    Revenge is what have driven us to justify these sick practices. After 9/11, not only was Iraq served up to satisfy blood lust, but also personal vendettas of torture against children and innocents have become common practices. When oh when will this desire be satiated?

  44. 44
    Dennis Doubleday says:

    Al-Qaeda’s “anthrax program”??

    The anthrax scare came from inside the US. There is still uncertainty about who actually sent the letters, but we damn sure know it wasn’t al-Qaeda.

  45. 45
    Bill H says:

    When did 60 Minutes take up the practice of rehashing ten year old controversies in excruciating and boring detail? Jesus, this was all settled more than five years ago. So the guy wrote a book trying to turn himself into a hero. Is anyone going to read it? Other than the idiots at 60 Minutes?

  46. 46
    Beauzeaux says:

    Anyone who uses the term “homeland” in conversation (other than sarcastically) is a criminal or an aspiring criminal.

    It’s a word associated strictly with despots, or maybe Marx Brothers movies. The nazis were big on homeland, the soviets as well. When I first heard of the Department of Homeland Security, I thought it was a joke. I expected much mirth and parody — instead we get po-faced torturers casually prattling about the “homeland.”

  47. 47
    Paul in KY says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: They are ‘we’ as far as I’m concerned. Our heroic allies in the fight to destroy Nazism.

  48. 48
    gluon1 says:

    @Brachiator: While it’s true that the US Army used water boarding in the Philippines, the reaction was totally different. Edmund Morris shows President Roosevelt demanding a court martial of the general involved. When the court martial convicted the general but only admonished him, Roosevelt order him dismissed.(Here is the first description and here the conclusion).

  49. 49

    […] The Years Posted on April 30, 2012 by reflectionephemeral John Cole watches 60 Minutes, and reports: But the demeanor of these two is what I find horrifying. Both [US torturer Jose] Rodriguez and […]

  50. 50
    ricknro says:

    I was in the process of a 4-mile run on the treadmill when this despicable f**ktard sat in front of a camera and justified the use of torture as an American security tool. Without the mental release of the cardo run-up, I could not have tolerated the words of the most reprehensible of representatives that the United States has to offer.

    This man, Rodriquez, is the very worst our country has to offer. That he was given a place of prominence in America’s security apparatus tells you all you need to know about the moral bankruptcy and counter-productive tactics of the Bush /

  51. 51
    Brachiator says:

    @gluon1:

    While it’s true that the US Army used water boarding in the Philippines, the reaction was totally different. Edmund Morris shows President Roosevelt demanding a court martial of the general involved. When the court martial convicted the general but only admonished him, Roosevelt order him dismissed.

    Good points, but Smith was involved in other atrocities, not just the waterboarding. And to summarize,

    In May 1902, Smith faced court-martial for his orders, being tried not for murder or other war crimes, but for “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline”. The court-martial found Smith guilty and sentenced him “to be admonished by the reviewing authority.”
    __
    To ease the subsequent public outcry in America, Secretary of War Elihu Root recommended that Smith be retired. President Theodore Roosevelt accepted this recommendation, and ordered Smith’s retirement from the Army, with no additional punishment.

    But I take your larger point, and it is unfortunate that more contemporary politicians and presidents do not more forcefully reject torture than did Roosevelt and others who dealt with these earlier issues.

  52. 52
    joe says:

    His responses to Stahl remind me of this: an old classic from ubuweb.

  53. 53
    Silver says:

    Chomsky pointed out that since Nuremberg, every US President has been a war criminal by the standards set there.

    I don’t see why this is surprising.

  54. 54
    wobbly says:

    CBS has actually been doing some good stuff lately. What’s the reason?

    Deaths in the family?

    Cronkite, Rooney, Wallace…and next, most likely, Safer.

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