The Price of Everything, The Value of Nothing

Today’s New York Times reports that:

Waterboarding might be an excruciating procedure with deep roots in the history of torture, but for the C.I.A.’s Office of Medical Services, recordkeeping for each session of near-drowning was critical. “In order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations, it is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented,” said medical guidelines prepared for the interrogators in December 2004.

The required records, the medical supervisors said, included “how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment.”

I think it was Pearl Cleage who said that she understood about doing wrong but not about the desire to record the details in glorious living Technicolor.

Watergate, anyone?

Reading the CIA’s Interrogation Guidelines (http://documents.nytimes.com/c-i-a-reports-guidelines-for-interrogators#p=1) is chilling.

They are prosaic, bureaucratic and completely dissociative.  There is even a sense of the parodic.  The TOP SECRET banner seems like something from Get Smart.

The giant blocks of redacted texts are like ghosts at once tantalizing and foreboding.

What’s the relationship between focusing so hard on details, procedures and minutiae that the broader picture of what’s happening disappears?  Is this, in fact, the only way that a project like this can be perpetrated?

Is the soul of our nation and its face to the world locked up in those pages?

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About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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