Thursday, April 23, 2009

266, the Sum of Democracy

In the April 20 edition of the New York Times, the front-page headline over a one inch column of print declares that two terrorist detainees were waterboarded 266 times by the CIA, according to declassified CIA documents. One detainee was waterboarded 183 over a span of 30 days. That breaks down to 6 times a day.

Here’s what I continually come back to, in the mind numbing brutality of this…some one counted. Someone, after each session, recorded it, faithfully, dutifully. 266. Not 265. Not 260. Not more than 100 times, not more than 200 times, not even less than 300 times. 266. Thinking it important. Thinking that someone would want to know.

Did they write this in a notebook? A little black book with spiral binding? Did they develop their own shorthand? Did their language grow more spare as the number climbed, no longer words but simply letters and numbers, gasping for breath, W B 8/15/02?

Did they stand off in the corner, scribbling the details, a few drops at a time, while the events were still fresh, the floor still wet? Or did they wait until the end of the day, sitting alone at a computer in a dark room with a single bulb burning above the keyboard, and blurt it all out at once?

And, what did they want from those who would read it? Praise? Understanding? Pity? Admiration? Respect? Gratitude? Protection?

After 266 times, does any of that matter?

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