Conservative Government’s Angelic Political Bureaucrats

The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.”
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count – 4,22,2009

A “Healthy mental growth seems to depend on truth as the living organism depends on food. If it is lacking or deficient, the personality deteriorates.”
Wilfred Bion*

bybee1 Yooalberto_gonzales_-_official_doj_photograph1

Let’s take a look at the faces of these white knights of the Bush-administration (Badministration) – of the men who prepared the legal justification for reversing the democratic stance on torture that is registered in the American Constitution. They explained in professional jerky jargon why torture, as soon as torturing agency is “our country” and the tortured are “our enemies”: alleged enemies of U.S., is absolutely legal – “a no brainer“, as Duck Cheneyfeld put it in one of his TV interviews, and, for sure, “a no hearter” or “no souler”.

Look at these streamlined faces, with its features generalized by a drilled obedience to the desires of the bosses. There is this smile displaying an unconditional openness to the commands of the superiors, the smile of a pebble polished by the brook, smile of the sand dune polished by the wind. Three faces – with the same smoothie of facial features.

The most striking feature of these sibling faces of Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee and John Yoo is their angelic purity. It seems as though these three pairs of eyes, dreamy, shy and childishly playful have never seen torture even if they had. Here is my “brainer” – these people identify neither with torturers, nor with the act of torturing! Then why are they endorsing torture? – It is exactly because they have nothing to do with it.

When we think about human actions we imply that people behave in a certain way with some understanding of what they are doing in situational and human (an existential) terms. We underestimate the degree of depersonalization and fragmentation the professional man (and just anybody who is obliged to follow orders) must endure. An office clerk or an office chair in this relation is no different from an army private. What determines the action of the professional man today is not his personality (his personal ideas and proclivities) but his agency’s expectations – his professionalism is immediately tied to his employer’s demands. In the case of torture lawyers this agency is the governmental order. It is here that we find the origin of the angelic smile worn by those who are responsible for legalization of torture – they function not on the level of human wholeness but on the level of psychological fragment that consists of their legal training plus their duty to follow the orders of their bosses. Torture for them is a bureaucratic article. They are craftsmen, construction workers following the designs of their foreman. They are just chisels in the hands of their bosses.

Does this mean that these people are not responsible for the ideas they have signed under? They feel that they are responsible not in the human but only in professional sense. Their personal responsibility is that of a psychological fragment, not of a psychological wholeness (it is of the hammer that is not suppose to suddenly brake or a measuring tape that should not tear apart too quickly). These people are professionals without being human beings. Today’s intensified division of labor doesn’t allow people to be at once both humans and professionals – the psychological fragment functions independently, in agreement with the social influences, and detours the judgment and control of human personality. The only responsibility a person bears for his actions today is just a matter of a job done well or poorly.

People like our torture lawyers are what Wifred Bion called ‘thoughts without thinkers”. They are Bernie Madoffs of the juridical profession – like Bernie Madoff is profit-making without the human being as a part of it, just the logic of multiplying the profit abstracted from the human context, Gonzales-Bybee-Yoo is a juridical logic without the human background and context. They are words, phrases and punctuation without anybody writing or constructing the meaning. Their memos are meaning without meaning.

The boss ordered Bybee-Yoo to write a memo explaining why it is absolutely necessary “for us” to use torture and why “we” have all the right to do this. What should By-Yoo do in this situation? Who is able today to lose his job? Are there many people whose psychological wholeness can override the conformism of their psychological fragment? Our authors of the torture memo are robust robots constructed to write memos (to transform memos into ammos).

The language the torture lawyers use is a dickchain of bureaucratic clichés. They dickchain the semantics of the language by their juridical jargon (jurgon) – “Torture is an act inflicting…severe pain or suffering, whether mental or physical. Physical pain must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death… Mental pain must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.”

The impression is that the authors of these grazed phrases are angels who plan the torture of human beings while sitting somewhere in a heavenly clerical office and following a super-human rationality. When they write about “inflicting severe pain” or about the needed intensity of physical or mental pain they completely block any awareness that their bodies are made of the same alive matter as the bodies of those who will be on the receiving end of their angelic/impish torture approving instructions.

Job keeping and career enhancement (JKCE) transforms human beings into (impersonal) angelic smiles with wickedly impish deeds. Not to be human is more basic for humans than to remain human beings if for not being human beings the reward is celery of salary!

The inevitable result of using torture is losing the ability to understand the nature of the enemy and of the conflict involved (that will create more and more serious mistakes in how we carry out the “war on terror”). To believe in the effectiveness of torture is like to believe in the effectiveness of theft, robbery, battery and murder.

*Wilfred Bion was a British psychoanalyst, the author of innovative ideas about human psychological development. He remains one of the gurus of the international psychoanalytic movement.