Rev. Neil O’Farrell and the darkest horror of the torture report
Evidently it was practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency, in what were called dungeons, in God-forsaken corners of the globe, far away from America’s pristine shores. Rectal hydration and feeding were used as torture techniques, supposedly on behalf the safety of all of us US citizens. The report said that it was a technique used unnecessarily, for no medical reason, and when an IV tube would have been more effective.
Descriptions of rectal terror were words I never imagined reading in a news headline, and now that I’ve seen them, I can’t un-see them. Or erase them from my consciousness.
I knew the report was coming out about how the U.S. government used torture to prosecute the so-called War on Terror, supposedly waged by America as a response to 9/11. I grimly thought we were all going to be subjected to some tough reading and dismal discussions, with a continuing spew of bickering and hollow justifications. I thought the report would confirm my worst suppositions. It would show how craven our political leaders and rogue government operatives were.
It would reveal an encyclopedia of lies that were told, and are still being told. In the wake of the report’s release, there would be jockeying for advantage, and there would be no high ground to claim. The report would be about disgusting truth, but not a whit about reconciliation. There might be some moral reckoning in the court of public opinion, even if nothing took place in a criminal court of justice.
I saw the release of the report as a grim confirmation of rumors and leaks, with nothing new to really learn for anyone paying the slightest attention. Evil—palpable evil—I believe exists, and the dark heart of humankind is not really all that unknown, but is oftentimes illuminated, as if by sunlight on a pristine blue morning as a modern jetliner is deliberately flown into the upper reaches of a sleek, iconic skyscraper in our nation’s largest city, in the late summer, obliterating thousands of lives in the span of a clock tick.
Yes, I believed that the Senate report on torture would reveal nothing really new. I was wrong. I was wrong because my expectations didn’t drill deeply enough into the slimy sewer.
I wasn’t expecting to stumble over the terms rectal hydration, and its close kin, rectal feeding.
My mind started reeling. Edward II of England, legend holds, was murdered by having a red-hot iron rod thrust up his anus.
Then, this web of current events and memory careened into focus: In the recent aftermath of police murders in Ferguson, New York City, and Cleveland, another New York police crime immediately leapt to mind. In 1997, Abner Louima, a black man falsely under arrest, was orally and rectally sodomized by a wooden handle by police thugs.
Rectal rape has throughout history been a method of subjugation and control by men of power over men without power. Conquering armies would oftentimes assault vanquished soldiers in this manner before killing them.
For forever, this wretched activity has been an endemic problem in prisons.
It horrifically is more common than anyone wants to admit in the military. Male soldiers raping other male soldiers are stories that used to be only whispered about; recently some victims have been telling their stories, many so traumatized that they still use pseudonyms.
Gay men have always, even now, been burdened because much discrimination is based on the view that this type of sexual activity could not possibly be an expression of love. One man penetrating the rectum of another man is always about aggression, power, toxic shame, terror,l or so it is still believed by many, mostly men.
Then, I asked myself, knowing humanity’s more shameful history as I do, should I really be surprised that the torture of prisoners through rectal abuse is a factor in this report? It’s just that for some naïve reason, I never imagined that this type of male-on-male brutality would be something I would be paying for, along with other government services.
On page 115 of the Senate Oversight Committee’s document, when referencing rectal feeding and hydration, the report noted that the CIA used this technique to demonstrate the interrogator’s “total control over the detainee.” Government torturers haven’t become more civilized over time. For male torturers, there is one part of another man’s anatomy that seems like it will always hold special significance.
I’m trying to find some point of redemption in all of this. Anyone who knows a smattering of American history knows the Central Intelligence Agency has given America a black eye over and over again, and is still doing so. What used to be an agency of espionage has now been militarized, and is using aerial drones to kill enemies and hapless civilians alike.
God knows, I know it won’t happen, yet given all we know about the CIA, and what was revealed in this week’s torture report, shouldn’t a stake be put through the black heart of this agency? Should the American flag be flown over a place of such primitive shame, abuse of power, and abject dishonor?