Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Psychopath of the Week

Another in our continuing series, Psychopath of the Week. It's always a tough call, because there are so many of them. This week, however, there's no contest.

Because we have the smarmiest of the smarmy, the personification of a sophist, which is to say someone who twists language and meaning and decency and his own soul beyond limits to justify the unjustifiable:

John Rizzo.

Formerly a lawyer with the CIA, he falls on the scale of perfidy right up there with John Yoo, author of the "torture memos." Let me take that back -- I think Rizzo might actually surpass Yoo. It's hard to tell; both deserve their own circle in Dante's Inferno.

Rizzo has written a book (of course -- he's now trying to cash in on his moral bankruptcy -- it's the American way!) called "Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA." Needless to say, don't buy it. But hey, at least the title is apt: a "company man," in common parlance, is someone who serves his superiors, who doesn't question what's right or wrong, a theme that has been well explored throughout literature (Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" and Henrik Ibsen's "Enemy of the People" being more recent examples).

I know we're used to criminals cashing in on books -- Dick Cheney comes to mind, though he's only one in a long, nauseating line -- but Rizzo proves himself particularly adept at speaking out of both sides of his mouth. So adept, in fact, that lying takes on a whole new corona. 

It oozed out of the radio recently when Rizzo was "interviewed," if you can call it that, on a celebrated news program that millions of people listen to every morning. Only it wasn't an interview; it was a PR opportunity for Rizzo to spin his sticky webs of rationalization and euphemism, unchallenged by his interlocutor, so that you felt filthy and suffocated at the end by having listened to it.

On torture, which the U.S. calls "torture" only when another country does it:
"As you may have surmised, because my book had to go through pre-publication review at the CIA, I was told that I had to not go into detail about what that one particularly gruesome technique was. I guess what I can say to you is: When I saw what waterboarding was, I had never heard that word before, but this technique I thought was even more chilling and scary than waterboarding — which Lord knows I thought was quite chilling on its own right. It was very rough ... something that would come out of an Edgar Allan Poe plotline. ..."
So, you might be thinking, good, he called it "chilling and scary." He called waterboarding -- which is indisuputably torture and has been acknowledged as such for centuries, and for which the U.S. prosecuted the Japanese after WWII -- "already quite chilling," let alone whatever sick, twisted other "technique" the sadists in the CIA had come up with. You might be led to believe that he's going to speak out against it, or at least that his interviewer will have some grasp of history.

But no.

For Rizzo goes on to say that that which we know is torture isn't really torture. Why? Because he said so! He's a lawyer, and lawyers can make words mean whatever they want. You think black is black? No, it's not, not if a lawyer says it's white. You think up is up? Silly child. Not if a lawyer say's it's down. Reminds one of Bill Clinton's "it depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

Torture becomes "techniques." Or "extraordinary measures." Or "aggressive maneuvers." Better yet, "the Joe Friday approach." The act of torturing becomes "operating in good faith." The USA becomes "the homeland" (but don't bring up anything related to Nazi Germany -- Godwin! Godwin!). Lying becomes "legal cover." Even Johns Hopkins, a world-famous medical institution, becomes "John Hopkins," apparently a mythical person, but let's not quibble.

Rizzo went on -- again, unchallenged by his interlocutor:
"No. I'm a lawyer, and torture is legally defined in U.S. law. If I had concluded — or, more importantly, if the Justice Department had concluded — that these techniques constitute torture, we would never have done them. So I can't say they were torture. I didn't concede it was torture then, and I don't concede that it's torture now."
Notice that he begins his rationale with "I'm a lawyer."

You can't make this shit up, because nothing you could fabricate could ever touch the arrogance, perversity, and criminality of these people.

How do they sleep at night? How do they look themselves in the mirror? How does anyone who's committed atrocities or justified the commission of atrocities? Millions of people throughout history have committed what we call "inhuman" acts. But the sad, bitter truth is that such acts are all too human. Human beings do these things. Human beings. Not demons, not devils, not evil spirits from some fictitious world of superstition. Human beings. 

Why people in the U.S. continue to pretend that only "other" people do them is simply an indication of another typical human tendency -- denial. By claiming that Americans can't commit such acts, that it's against our "national character," such people are claiming that Americans aren't human. Therefore, they must be super-human. That's the logic.

And, in fact, I suppose many such people do believe that Americans are superhuman. I don't know which is sadder and sicker -- the denial or the willful ignorance.

In any case, John Rizzo is a criminal. The colleagues, analysts, lawyers, psychologists, physicians, and apparatchiks who aided him and justified torture along with him, are criminals. The sadistic fucks who carried out these acts are criminals. The politicians who knew about them -- every last one of them, from presidents -- presidents plural -- to cabinet members to Congressional reps -- are criminals. The ignoramuses in the population who defend them to this day are criminals.

As I say so often: someday, there will be a reckoning.

And when that day comes, how many Americans will understand why?

If history is any guide, not many. "Oh, why do they hate us?!"

And the place where I heard Rizzo's font of bile? NPR's Morning Edition. Listen for yourself, if you can stand it. And remember that NPR has a history of using the euphemism "enhanced interrogation" instead of "torture" when it comes to U.S. actions. 

Then tell me the media shouldn't be added to that list of criminals.