America does not torture! That was one of the absolutes that I learned growing up. We stand for freedom. We stand for justice. We only go to war when we are attacked. We fight fair. And, we don’t torture.
It turns out, we do interrogate in an enhanced way, however.

According to the thousands of pages in the 2014 Senate Report, we do simulate drowning over and over again. We do put people for hours on end in little boxes the size of coffins. We do strip Orthodox, modest men down to nakedness in the presence of women. We do put people in physical positions of extreme pain for extended periods. We do practice something called rectal “feeding,” a practice which would be considered criminal rape by almost every state in the union, and every developed democracy in the world. We do chain naked men to cold concrete floors and allow them to die there. We do detain innocent men and do any and all of the above to them, virtually destroying their lives, and not even apologize afterwards in any way. But we don’t torture. At least that’s what Dick Cheney says. And I’ve been told Dick Cheney is an honorable man.

Mr. Cheney does practice a seemingly time honored behavior in our American history. He apparently lies about it. Just as the pilgrims in a 1637 war burned down an Indian village, not allowing a single man, woman, or child to escape, and then reported that they had fought a great battle which they won; Just as we called the Indians savages as our own colonial, and later, state governments paid bounties for the scalps of native men, women, and children; just as we repeatedly violated flags of truce and slaughtered women, children, and old men at Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, and scores of other scenes; just as we eventually violated treaty after treaty that we made with Native Americans; just as we tolerated the forced labor and imprisonment of generations of men, women, and children forcibly imported from Africa, and lied about it all, Dick Cheney appears to do it now.

It was The United States armed forces that raised the water torture to practically an art against the Filipino rebels over a hundred years ago. It was called the water cure then, and according to soldiers’ congressional testimonies, it ended up killing hundreds of those tortured. Many American leaders claimed at the time that the “cure” did not seriously harm anyone. Sound familiar? In just the last generation The Phoenix Program against the Vietnamese, which included the torture of hundreds of suspected Viet Cong, hardly received any attention, and plenty of denial that it had not seriously harmed anyone. Dick Cheney is only following the tradition.

We aspire to a noble goal in international affairs. It is one that we should hold high. The United States has for decades been a primary force behind international no torture agreements. All signatories to the agreements have sworn to not use torture under any circumstances because the world community has concluded that torture is morally repugnant, and should no more be accepted than murder or rape as acts of war. Those that sanction, order, or perform these acts can be prosecuted by The World Court, and many have.

Given our media’s willingness to accept the Cheney-Bush rationalizations and euphemisms for their torture policy, we have to wonder whether the two psychologists, paid $81 million to design and evaluate the torture program for the CIA, will ever be prosecuted. Will Dick Cheney, George Bush, and their CIA executives and operatives who carried out their program ever be prosecuted here or in The World Court?

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is, Maybe. In December our ally, Germany, allowed war crime charges to be filed against the Bush administration people who developed and enforced their torture policies. Other nations have already done this. Just because our media is accepting the cover stories the torturers supply, doesn’t mean the rest of the world will. Of course Dick Cheney says he would do it all again in a second. Perhaps he wouldn’t be so eager if he knew humanity would hold him accountable.

River Smith is a psychologist, social justice educator, former co-chair of The National Organization for Men Against Sexism, and author of A Conspiracy to Love: Living A Life of Joy, Generosity, and Power (revised edition), 2012, Satyagraha Publishing Collective, Cleveland, Ohio.