Our opinion: Hippocrates would, and Americans should, be appalled


We have been on the record stating torture in the name of anything American is unacceptable because it goes against everything for which this nation purports to stand.

Yes, even if it came down to the "ticking-time-bomb" scenario so often cited by war criminal Dick Cheney and his ilk, torturing someone for information is antithetical to everything this country stands for. Now, we will admit that the times have changed and we will also admit that any more-than-casual observer of American history will note we have not often lived up to the ideals we so often espouse as those that make us exceptional and the indispensable nation.

We are a work in progress, based on a flawed document that nonetheless has guided us through the darkest of times in the past 230-plus years. To believe, as at least one Republican candidate has stated, that America is in ruins, is nothing more than, at best, a slick attempt to garnish media attention (and the profits that follow) or, at worse, a grindingly bleak (and inaccurate) vision of the work everyday Americans are performing to keep their communities vibrant and sustain their families under the pressures of a failed economic theory (trickle down).

One of the things that proves America just might be exceptional is the fact that, one way or another, we eventually learn of the malfeasance and horrors perpetrated in our name. Whether we care to acknowledge or remedy those transgressions is another matter, especially considering the war criminals who foisted the Iraq invasion on America and the rest of the world still enjoy their freedom.

Perhaps we have reluctantly concluded politicians, policy makers and bureaucrats will do and say whatever is necessary to enrich themselves and maintain their grip on power. However, there is a profession we expect to hew to the highest standards applicable: those who practice medicine.

In documents unearthed by the American Civil Liberties Union and published by The Guardian, the CIA's Office of Medical Services not only advised interrogators (torturers, by any other name, would still smell as rancid) on how far to push their "enhanced techniques" on suspected terrorists, but were also present to revive subjects before they could enter the land of the 72 Virgins.

"The Central Intelligence Agency had explicit guidelines for 'human experimentation' before, during and after its post-9/11 torture of terrorism detainees," wrote The Guardian. "CIA director George Tenet approved abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, designed by CIA contractor psychologists. He further instructed the agency's health personnel to oversee the brutal interrogations — the beginning of years of controversy, still ongoing, about US torture as a violation of medical ethics."

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While some experts consulted by The Guardian concluded the CIA had safeguards in place regarding "human experimentation," not all were convinced.

"Crime one was torture. The second crime was research without consent in order to say it wasn't torture," said Nathaniel Raymond, a former war-crimes investigator with Physicians for Human Rights and now a researcher with Harvard University's Humanitarian Initiative.

According to the CIA's "Law and Policy Governing the Conduct of Intelligence Agencies," the agency "shall not sponsor, contract for, or conduct research on human subjects" outside of instructions on responsible and humane medical practices set for the entire U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the document, a foundation of those instructions is the "subject's informed consent."

Experts assessing the document for the Guardian said the agency and its medical personnel violated procedures during its interrogations, detentions and renditions program after 9/11.

Doctors employed by the CIA advised interrogators on the physical and psychological administration of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and offered perspectives on calibrating them to specific detainees' resilience, noted The Guardian.

Americans should be appalled at the notion that medical doctors, sworn to the Hippocratic Oath, would violate that oath, which the original says, in part, "Nor shall any man's entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so." There are many versions of the Hippocratic Oath, but however you cut it, there is no doubt the CIA's doctors violated it. They, along with the masterminds of the post-9/11 security state, should be held accountable.


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